Viridian Note 00184: Viridian Commentary

Bruce Sterling []

Key concepts
Viridian commentary, BP oil company, Viridian tactics, corporate culture

Attention Conservation Notice: Viridian comments are ruthlessly edited by the autocratic Pope-Emperor, but may well go on too long even so.

Entries in the Viridian Magazine Cover Contest:

This contest expires soon: August 31, 02000.

Link: There's a 530-mile long plume of smoke rising from the flames of Montana. It's 250 miles wide. 890338.stm

Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Wales just had a freak storm
with five inches of hail, snow, floods, and a tornado ==-
in August.

From:* (Dr. Gordon Edge)
Subject: Re: Viridian Note 00183: North Pole Melts
To: Bruce Sterling <>

"Re your enthusiasm about 'bp' (note the lower case ==
apparently official, though of course everyone will
continue to use capitals). I have to say 'yes, but...',
as there is certainly an element of style triumphing over
content here."

(((Yeah, and worse yet, that green lower case "bp" is in a lame san-serif font.)))

     "Earlier in July, BP announced its capital investment plans for the next three years, which included a doubling of its planned investment in renewables, to $500m. A lot of money, you might say, but consider that the total investment budget is $40.5bn, of which $24bn is for oil and gas exploration and production. This investment will mean a rise in oil production of 4-5% per year, and gas production by 8% per year. Not exactly the actions of a company wholly intent on going 'beyond petroleum.'"

(((I'm with the facts and figures here, but let me break some personal financial news. Though I'm doubling my planned investment in Viridian agitation, I make all my real money as a novelist. That means my industrial interests are firmly aligned with Bantam Books,, Barnes and Noble, et alia. These enterprises pick up 92% of the revenue that my creative endeavors produce, while I tend to get about 8 percent, of which only a teensy, derisory fraction goes into activism. Do you see any publishers and bookstores attaching solar plates to themselves? And think of all the trees we're jointly killing. Financial analysis proves me to be grossly duplicitous, but do you imagine I'll stop selling those books? In a pig's eye, brother!)))

     "While BP is the market leader in solar photovoltaics, it has no other renewables to speak of in its portfolio, and no obvious game plan as to how to get between here and a non-fossil future." (((Well, BP does own quite a large chunk of, the Austin, Texas-based clean energy retail company. Greenmountain's got so many game plans that they tried to purchase the

next President.))) "At least Shell is talking about
perhaps half its business being renewable by 2050 ==
vague, but an articulated aspiration nonetheless."

(((Yes, yes, but Shell's logo is so... inadequate.)))

"I will also be slightly cynical about the solar
petrol stations == while there may be certain altruistic
and public image gains from the programme, the fact
remains that the cost of installing the PV arrays is
outweighed by the extra business that is generated at the
stations in question. I'm sure this never, ever crossed

the minds of the executives that dreamed up the scheme."

     (((I have some cynical solar on my house, too. We waste energy galore whenever we throw a house party and everyone has to admire the big panels up there. It would certainly never occur to me that this might cause somebody to buy one of my books, though.)))

     " If you want a report about PV gas stations, I was

at the opening of BP's first, at Perivale in West London
in Spring last year. There's not much to see == the
panels are all on the roof. However, look out for the new
'BP Connect' stations that will be opening in Cleveland
and Indianapolis later this year. They feature thin-film
PV incorporated into a transparent canopy. Very hi-tech


(((And in Cleveland! Whoa!)))

     "I will attempt to use my contacts in BP to obtain you a 'sunflower' t-shirt."

(((That's very kind of you indeed. I have every intention of wearing it. Rule Cool Britannia!)))

Dr Gordon Edge Editor, Financial Times Renewable Energy Report

BP Solar gas station^^* (Indulis Bernsteins)

"Key concepts: Solar gas (petrol) stations, Beyond Petroleum, solar cells from down under.

     "In a country baked by uncounted gigawatts of solar energy every day, Australians are used to seeing solar energy in day to day life. Emergency call points on highways, solar hot water systems, and solar powered construction signs and billboards are common here on the West Coast of the continent. So when we gas-guzzling, car-addicted antipodeans pull into the BP petrol station with a huge array of solar cells perched on the roof, it

evokes little excitement. And perhaps that is just how
Viridians want clean energy to be seen == pragmatic,
unremarkable, and the normal way of doing things.

(((Absolutely. Except one other thing: carbon power has to be conversely seen as insane, embarrassing and abnormal.)))

     "A solar powered BP petrol station at Belmont (Perth,

Western Australia) is only a few miles/Km away from my
house. Without looking upwards == how many of us do? ==
the only sign that the modern silver and green gas station
is powered by solar energy is a large LED meter near the
pristine glass entrance. This meter shows the accumulated
energy collected from the solar panels on the roof. Most

of us hurry by to pay without noticing or caring what the red digits mean for the state of the planet."

Uni of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. Inventors of arguably the world's best solar cell technology, licensed by BP Solarex. http://www.public-

BP Solarex solar cells Press release for BP solar gas station