Big business is an important resource, says Jared Diamond

An increasing number of environmentalists seem to re-evaluate some of their core views about how sustainability will be achieved. In a previous posting I referred an article in the Washington Post, saying that environmentalists increasingly view nuclear power as one of the solutions that will help us produce clean energy in the future.

In an article in today’s issue of The New York Times, environmentalist, scientist, and best-selling author of “Guns, Germs and Steel” and “Collapse”, Jared Diamond argues that many companies do much more for the environment and run much more environmentally friendly operations than most environmentalists believe.

This is clearly an important argument.

Business needs to contribute to large scale energy transformation. Due to Peak Oil, and Climate Change, we need to rapidly and dramatically reduce our use of fossil fuels and energy altogether. Not doing this is no longer an option, because continued affluence will require a continuous supply of energy to feed 6.5 billion people, and provide work and other necessities for them.

We still need to invest huge sums of money and other resources in the large scale transformation of energy related systems. Jared Diamond cites the ambition by Wal Mart to double the fuel efficiency of its truck fleet. This brings us hope that we will be able to manage the large scale energy systems transformation that will become necessary.

Most companies are smaller than Wal Mart, and also less profitable. They have a much more limited impact on their energy consumption than Wal Mart has.

There will be a need of large scale transformation programs, where governments and business (large and small) co-operate in order to succeed with the transformation. There will be a need for standardization, high level project management to make sure that all necessary aspects of the transformation programs are taken managed towards high level goals.

As Al Gore points out in his recent book “Our Choice”, President Obama, and the United States, need to take the lead in the energy transformation.

Large companies like General Electric, Volvo, and Wal Mart, are blazing the path forward. Now governments needs to get their act together and start the high level programs that develop the technologies, products and systems that we cannot expect business to develop based on market mechanisms. In order to know what those are, governments need to analyze the transformation needs and opportunities and find the gaps that market based action will not fill.