When the going gets tough, the tough get green

Watching the politicians in D.C. chase their tails, point fingers and rant sure gets me down. A headline in today's Fresno Bee summed it up well: "Market burns, DC fiddles."

And then I saw this:
and this:

National lawmakers can't seem to agree on anything, so Corporate America and individual states are taking up the mantle on clean energy and sustainability. GM's announcement that it is investing in solar development is the latest example. The automaker has discovered that going green makes sense economically and socially. Below is a quote from a GM honcho.

"Our GM facilities currently house 30 megawatts of solar power, and we are committing today to double that capacity to 60 megawatts over the next few years, which is equivalent to powering 10,000 homes annually,” said Mike Robinson, GM vice president of Energy, Environment & Safety Policy. “Not only does renewable energy make good business sense, it helps us continue to reduce the impact our facilities have on the environment.”

GM isn't the only company to recognize that. Did you know that my favorite indulgence, Kit Kat, is now green - in a sustainability kind of way? Here's more. Want another heavy-hitting example: How about Walmart, the world's largest retailer. It is one of the leaders. Check out this story in Forbes.

Some states have caught on too. California, where I live, passed a tough 33% renewables law, and Gov. Brown is reportedly close to naming a clean energy czar. Residents appear to support the effort, according to recent surveys.

Add the military and ongoing research to that, and the infrastructure for real change is being built. A leading auditing and analysis firm compared what is happening to the Industrial Revolution. My colleague uses a Jules Verne analogy here.

With the space shuttle program done, maybe a NASA-style entity could work on energy. Those 7,000 or so engineers, scientists and others out of a job could get back to work.

Photo from Eolic Power

Big Business Takes Lead On Clean Energy Movement

Corporate America is taking up the mantle for the green-energy movement, realizing that renewable fuels and energy conservation are good for the environment and make sense economically.

The latest evidence of this came forth today, when General Electric and General Motors announced they are teaming up on an energy-efficiency program with a payback period of only six months. GE says in this story that the annual energy savings to the automaker's production process will be significantly more than the cost of implementing the program.

The new system is surprisingly simple and, according to this CleanTechnica story, involves, among other things, GE synchronizing the conveyors in GM factories with lights and other equipment. This is just another example of energy-efficiency measures producing a robust return on investment - and of Big Business taking up a leadership role in Big Green.

Consider what Mike Duke, CEO of Walmart - which is greening its supply chain and installing solar panels, wind turbines and fuel cells - said in a recent statement that we noted in a blog: "Business should not see a conflict between doing what is right for business and what is right for the world."

As if on cue, Diageo, the world’s leading premium distilled spirits, beer and wine company, followed up by announcing today that it achieved carbon neutral status for its North American corporate fleet in 2010.

Want more evidence? On Friday, the United Nations implemented a program encouraging businesses to share best practices on sustainability - and immediately signed up 54 companies, including heavy-hitters such as Nestle, Shell and Coca Cola.

With business leading the charge, the green movement could pick up speed.