BBC Pick of the Week: Interview with Bertrand Piccard, Solar Impulse

BBC Pick of the Week: Interview with Bertrand Piccard, Solar Impulse

By Alison van Diggelen, host of Fresh Dialogues

This week, I was delighted to discover that my interview with Solar Impulse pilot and clean technology enthusiast, Bertrand Piccard was featured on BBC Radio 4’s program, “Pick of the Week.” The program is described as “a selection of highlights from the past week on BBC radio” and it certainly makes compelling listening. BBC Presenter Caz Graham‘s picks are an eclectic mix of audio-rich stories: everything from Chairman Mao to Bob Dylan; and swimming in the Thames to soaring in solar flight. You can listen to the full 45-minute podcast here. The Solar Impulse segment starts at 22:20 but if you start listening at 20:10, you’ll get a fuller context, as Graham links the clean technology mission to the ideals of the influential economist, E.F Schumacher.

Listen to the Solar Impulse Segment here: (Schumacher starts at 0:07 and Solar Impulse at 1:45)


Here’s a transcript of the segment (edited for length and clarity):

BBC Presenter: Now on Radio 4, with the best of the BBC Radio this week, here’s Caz Graham…

Caz Graham:Small is beautiful” challenged the idea of economies based on mass production. According to Schumacher, big isn’t always better….Leo Johnson tried to find out what Schumacher stands for and whether his ideas might be about to take off. He enlisted the help of Satish Kumar, founder of the Schumacher College.

Satish Kumar: We have been given these beautiful hands…they are like a miracle. What can we do with these hands? The word ‘poet’ means ‘to make’….’poiesis.’ In Schumacher’s view, we are all poets. If we make something with creativity and imagination, a garden can be poetry, dinner can be a work of poetry…Work is a source of pleasure and joy. Our philosophy of consumerism, of materialism, of disconnection, that humans are separate from nature…is the biggest problem…Financial wealth is only a means to an end. Real wealth is community, people, their skills, their talent, their imagination, their creativity…Real wealth is nature.

Caz Graham, BBC Presenter for Radio 4's Pick of the WeekCaz Graham:  It all sounds marvelous in theory, but what about in practice? You need people to channel that imagination and creativity to deliver and develop the kind of world that Shumacher was aspiring to. Maybe people like Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg? They have a unique plane. It’s called the Solar Impulse. It has a wing span of 230 feet and it’s powered entirely by solar panels attached to those wings. They want to prove that this kind of clean technology really can work and could help solve our energy problems, so they’re currently flying it right around the world.

Alison van Diggelen caught up with them for the World Service’s Business Matters, during a recent stop over in Silicon Valley. This is Bertrand Piccard

Bertrand Piccard: You know, I never have enough of flying that plane or seeing it flying…when you see those four electrical motors that put the plane in the sky with no noise, no pollution, it’s like a jump into the future. Thanks to new technologies, the future is already today.

Alison van Diggelen: What for you is the biggest game changer?

Bertrand Piccard: The world cannot continue on combustion engines, badly insulated houses, incandescent light bulbs, outdated systems to distribute the energy…this is last century. It’s not only about protecting the environment, it’s a lot about making money, new industrial markets, economic development, profit, job creation. These clean technologies can be used for electrical mobility, LED lights, smartgrids. …. Maybe Solar Impulse is a way to try to overcome the resistance of the dinosaurs who have not yet understood where the future is.

Alison van Diggelen: You’re an entrepreneur, as is Andre (Borschberg). What do you say to these naysayers?

Bertrand Piccard: I tell them: be really careful because innovation does not come from inside the system. It’s not the people selling the candles who invented the lightbulb. What you’re doing now will be replaced. If you want to innovate be a pioneer…change your way of thinking. Dinosaurs disappeared, they were the strongest one, but the less flexible one to adaptation.

Caz Graham: Bertrand Piccard, speaking on the World Service.


Check out more Pick of the Week programs at BBC Radio 4

Find out more about the Solar Impulse team at Fresh Dialogues – Is this a Kitty Hawk moment for Clean Technologies?

Follow the Solar Impulse journey around the world

BBC Dialogues: Elon Musk Unveils Tesla Energy. Why Is It Big News?

BBC Dialogues: Elon Musk Unveils Tesla Energy. Why Is It Big News?

By Alison van Diggelen, host of Fresh Dialogues

Last night, Tesla CEO Elon Musk showed he’s getting more like Steve Jobs by the minute. Just as Jobs helped revolutionize the personal computer, music and phone industries; Musk has helped revolutionize the world of e-commerce, space exploration and electric cars. And now he’s set his sights on the energy sector. With this announcement, Musk has burnished his revolutionary status by revealing that Tesla Motors is no longer “just” a car company, but an energy company.  You can read the 12 key facts of last night’s presentation here. Some commentators are calling it the start of an energy storage revolution, but there are no guarantees.

I joined the BBC’s Fergus Nicholl and Revathy Ashok (Bangalore Political Action Committee) on Business Matters last night to discuss the implications of Musk’s bold vision for energy storage. Here is the podcast from the BBC World Service. Our Tesla conversation starts at the 29:00 mark.

Here are some highlights of our conversation (edited for length and clarity):

Fergus Nicholl: Elon Musk…you’ve met the man. How would you introduce him to a global audience?

Alison van Diggelen: He is a genius inventor…the (Thomas) Edison of our day…incredibly sharp minded, a big old geek, but he’s very personable. He has grand visions and wants to make it happen…he has the ability to paint a picture, and motivate a team and build a team. He’s changed the world of electric vehicles and he’s now planning to change the world of power, utilities and battery storage.

Fergus Nicholl: That is an application that would apply in many many countries, beyond India. The idea that you could weather blackouts, brownouts…you’re saying you could bank it, use it when you need it and not necessarily get hit by little domestic crises?

Revathy Ashok: Absolutely. It’s pretty common in India for a normal household to have a one to three hour battery back up. For the last 12 hours it’s been raining heavily…we’ve had no power at all, so all connectivity is lost. I have three hours of battery backup which is all gone…

Elon Musk reveals Tesla Energy April 30 2015, Fresh Dialogues photoAlison van Diggelen: The main idea is, if you’ve got solar panels on your roof, or windpower, your house can become a power station with the addition of these batteries. No matter what natural disaster, earthquake etc. is happening, you will have a reliable source of power. You won’t need the utility anymore. You can just disconnect from the grid, go “off-grid.” So that’s the huge potential and that’s why people are really excited about tonight’s announcement.

Fergus Nicholl: The Gigafactory (in Nevada)…tell us more about it…a net zero energy factory…it’s quite an extraordinary project.

Alison van Diggelen: Yes, a net zero energy project means it will be solar powered itself and will produce as much energy as it uses to make these batteries. It’s definitely quite revolutionary and has Elon Musk’s fingers all over it.

Fergus Nicholl: In this picture, the entire roof is vast solar panels, kind of like a solar farm laid perfectly flat. I guess Nevada is probably the best place to be for that?

Alison van Diggelen: Indeed, several states were actually fighting over it. California was hoping to get it too, but Nevada won out because they gave some very juicy incentives…The Gigafactory will produce more batteries, once it’s fully operational, than the world’s supply of batteries in 2013. That’s what they’re predicting. It’s a mind blowing amount of batteries and Tesla board member, Steve Jurvetson told me they’re planning to build more Gigafactories around the world, once this one is operational. As well as being Net Zero, they’re going to be creating a lot of employment, so there will be a lot of communities wanting them in their back yard too.

Fergus Nicholl: They’ll be lining up in different countries…


Note: We didn’t have time to discuss the competition that Tesla will face in the battery storage space. There are already major players like Samsung, LG Chem and Mitsubishi working on energy storage solutions and a slice of what Deutsche Bank estimates is a $4.5Bn market.  The question is, will Tesla’s strong brand and reputation for quality emulate what Apple achieved in the cellphone market, and leapfrog over the existing competition? In his usual hyperbolic (Steve Jobs) fashion, Elon Musk said last night that “existing battery solutions suck.” But the success of his high risk venture in the energy storage market will depend on swift execution and competitive pricing that makes the Tesla Powerwall a viable solution for a wide spectrum of potential buyers, from wealthy consumers and businesses in California to rural communities in India, Africa and beyond.

Tesla’s Grand Battery Plan: Insider Steve Jurvetson Explains

Tesla’s Grand Battery Plan: Insider Steve Jurvetson Explains

This week I sat down with Tesla board member Steve Jurvetson to discuss his unique view of the innovation that’s going to transform our world in the next 50 years. We covered everything from Tesla’s secret business plan to SpaceX’s Mars mission; and from the Robo-Apocalypse to the tech-accelerated rich-poor divide. The interview took place at The Commonwealth Club, Silicon Valley on April 21, 2015


Here’s an extract of our conversation about Tesla’s new battery storage products:

Alison van Diggelen:  Tesla has a big announcement next week about batteries.  Of course, I’m not going to ask you to preempt Elon Musk’s announcement…but give us the case for battery storage. Why is Tesla going into battery storage for the home and utility scale?

Steve Jurvetson: This may be the first peek into a unified theme across companies. So as people know, Elon Musk is an incredibly prolific entrepreneur, having come up with, or been at the founding team of Tesla, SpaceX, SolarCity, PayPal, all different industries that seem to have nothing to do with each other.

Now the troika of perhaps SolarCity, and the Gigafactory (which is an incredible initiative underway in Nevada right now), and Tesla comes into light for the first time: There is synergy. Say 20 years out, there’ll be a distributed utility where Solarcity has the solar cell installation, leasing and basically ownership, installation and the whole shebang, actually building panels as well for solar on homes, everywhere.

Well, once you get enough of that (last I checked they have around 40% market share in the US) you start to generate so much energy that you are like a variety of utilities combined, but it’s ephemeral. If you’re not using that energy when generated, it goes away. So right now, you push it to the grid and it’s expected the utility can use it, especially since solar is produced at peak hours. But what if you wanted to get rid of the grid altogether? You’d need distributed storage …if every solar cell came with a big battery that could smooth out your daily needs, then you could just disconnect from the grid. You could certainly lower the generation capacity of the grid…that pushes on fossil fuels and nuclear.

How to pull that off? As a customer of Tesla and SolarCity I see my solar cells and I see my car and think, can’t we just connect these together? If I need to suck energy out of my car, I can use it to buffer the load from my cells, but it’s not so easy…

Part of the synergy and leverage is that Tesla is planning to build an enormous plant of batteries, anticipating the 3rd generation vehicle…you’re going to have some excess capacity, potentially for some period of time as you ramp up.

There will be blocks when you produce a lot more batteries than you might need in that particular month…well what are other interesting things you can do with them? What would you do with those batteries at the end of life of a car? Those battery packs are really useful for secondary storage uses.

For folks who don’t know this…the Gigafactory isn’t named that just out of hubris. It would be the largest factory in the world by footprint and they’re going to eventually build many of them. That one factory alone at scale would exceed global capacity today. So this is an unfathomable amount of batteries.

I really have to credit Elon for realizing that these numbers pencil out to be so enormous and to share that with the world, before he had the solution in the bag.


Steve Jurvetson and JB Straubel visit the Tesla Gigafactory

van Diggelen: Talk about the utility scale side. If you were a utility…in charge of PG&E today, talk about how you’d be feeling and what you might be doing to deal with this?

Jurvetson: On the one hand, you’re threatened by solar and you’re going to do all your dastardly deeds to try to quench and kill innovation, because that’s what big companies do, it’s in their blood. That’s what they’re expected to do.

But on the other hand, they need this too because whether by mandate or the goodness of their hearts…so mandate…they do more wind, do more solar. Many of those wind farms you see, on Pacheco Pass, they’re not doing anything useful. They may be spinning but they’re not even hooked up sometimes. There are rules and regulations to generate the capacity but not to actually make use of it. So part of the problem with time shifting is you have different needs at different times, wind is often a nighttime peak, so storage is needed throughout to pump water…there are all kinds of things you can do….in demand response. There’s a lot of inefficiencies in the utilities where they’ll build peaking gas fired power plants that are just turned on for a few hours in the year at most for those peak needs. So all that infrastructure just because you couldn’t do needs sharing or have the capacity to buffer.

If you had big old battery sitting there on the grid, you wouldn’t need that. So distributing that allows you to put it near the point of consumption and point of generation in a solar context.

van Diggelen: What are the markets for these utility scale batteries? Would it be companies like Apple that are going solar in a big way or is it to sell to PG&E?

Jurvetson: Good question. In general, there’s a whole cascade of markets: everything from consumers for their home, businesses and utilities themselves. The utilities can go to all kinds of technologies, even Telcos like for a cell phone tower you need storage there as well, especially in places like India and elsewhere.

There are technologies like flow cell batteries, compressed air solutions being developed…there is a variety of ways to approach this. Tesla’s approach is just leveraging what they know best which is lithium ion chemistry and batteries and a battery management system…so you can potentially address a whole range of these.

van Diggelen: So it’s the same batteries they use in their car?

Jurvetson: Exactly…


Check back soon for more highlights from the Steve Jurvetson interview.

Did you know Jurvetson is owner of the first Tesla Model S? More from Fresh Dialogues

Apple’s Insanely Solar Deal: 3 Reasons It Makes Sense

Apple’s Insanely Solar Deal: 3 Reasons It Makes Sense

By Alison van Diggelen, host of Fresh Dialogues

In announcing a massive, unprecedented investment in solar power by a private company, Apple’s Tim Cook said yesterday in San Francisco,

“We know in Apple that climate change is real. The time for talk is passed…The time for action is now.”

Here are three reasons the $850 M solar deal with First Solar makes sense:

1. Money saving: Apple signed a 25 year purchase power agreement which will guarantee the tech company a fixed price for solar power, under the market price for energy in California. Solar prices have declined dramatically in the last 40 years (today’s panels are 100 times cheaper than in 1977) and Apple has timed its agreement to profit from this trend.

“We expect to have a very significant savings because we have a fixed price for the renewable energy, and there’s quite a difference between that price and the price of brown energy,” Cook said.

2. Green Halo Effect: Not only will Apple benefit from a “greener than thou” reputation from their existing fans, but will inevitably attract more environmentally conscious consumers, especially Millennials who care deeply how their tech gadgets and the cloud’s data centers are powered. This will help in its battle with arch rival Samsung which it ridiculed last year in a hard hitting ad campaign.

In addition, in the race to attract and retain the top tech talent in Silicon Valley, Apple’s “green reputation” will be powerful.

The stock market liked this green halo effect and sent shares up almost 2% to history making market cap of over $720B.

“Other Fortune 500 CEOs would be well served to make a study of Tim Cook,” Greenpeace said in a statement.

3. Pioneer for Climate Change: Last year, Tim Cook famously told climate skeptics at an Apple shareholder meeting to “get out of Apple stock” if they don’t like his clean energy strategy.  His visible passion on the issue revealed how strongly he feels about climate change and his commitment to reduce Apple’s carbon footprint.

“I want leave the world better than we found it,” said Tim Cook.

Under Cook’s leadership, Apple has forged ahead strongly with plans to get 100% of its energy from renewable sources. A massive data center in North Carolina is powered by huge solar farms and Bloom Energy’s fuel cells. I anticipate that Silicon Valley’s Bloom Energy will also be part of Apple’s new clean power strategy in California (check back soon for updates).

Apple’s trend-setting, clean energy market making reputation is already impacting other tech companies such as Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo and Amazon, although Google gets the greenest star for its early action and massive investment in clean energy of over $1.5B.

Read more about Apple’s Green Halo and its battle with Samsung (BBC conversation)

How a clever Greenpeace campaign helped green Apple’s iCloud (KQED report)

More clean energy and cleantech stories

BBC Report: Tech Women Flock to Silicon Valley “Mecca”

BBC Report: Tech Women Flock to Silicon Valley “Mecca”

By Alison van Diggelen, host of Fresh Dialogues

Silicon Valley is well known as the global hub of innovative technology. Can four weeks immersed in its unique ecosystem help inspire a new generation of global tech leaders? That’s the hope behind a program called Tech Women, launched by former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton and now sponsored by the State Department.

Last month, over seventy tech women from Africa and the Middle East made a month-long visit to Silicon Valley. I met with several of them to explore what they learned, and how they plan to leverage technology to tackle their countries’ challenges when they return home.

A version of this story aired on BBC’s Tech Tent on Nov. 14, 2014. Listen to the podcast below:  @20.00

Here is the full length transcript:

BBC Tech Tent logoTech Tent Host, Rory Cellan-Jones: One interesting aspect of the tech revolution is that women are playing a bigger role in the developing world than in places like the U.S. and U.K. Over 70 women from Africa and the Middle Easter have just wrapped up a month long visit to Silicon Valley, with the aim of picking up ideas for the technology they can use to tackle their country’s challenges when they return home. Alison van Diggelen met two of them…

Alison van Diggelen: They are two women with ambitious missions. They’ve got the tech savvy and now, after a month building connections and wisdom in Silicon Valley, they’re eager to launch their dreams back home.

Meet Asal Ibrahim who wants to bring massive deployment of solar power to Jordan; and Serah Kahiu from Kenya who wants to jumpstart the science and tech economy in Africa by developing a network of science museums and labs across the entire continent.

Both have lofty goals, but they talk with such conviction and enthusiasm, it’s hard not to believe that these young women will change the world, at least their little corner of it.

I start by asking Kahiu about the current state of technology in Kenya.

Kahiu: “I use mobile technology in Kenya, it’s HUGE. It’s like magic because you can do transactions, money transactions on your mobile. You can pay someone from wherever in a country: school fees, bills. That one has revolutionized life in Kenya.”

She explains how Facebook is a vital tech tool for small businesses in Kenya.

Kahiu: “You can use your phone for Internet. That has really sparked business because you can advertise your product on Facebook, get someone to pay you through M-pesa and then put stuff on a public transport system and it’s transported to your client. That has made it so easy for people like farmers. You cut out the middleman. The farmer gets all the profit. This is huge, especially for women. The majority of small scale farmers in Kenya are women, so that has improved standards of living for many women in rural areas.”

Serah Kahiu Think Different Fresh DialoguesWe discuss her grand vision of creating a network of hands-on science and tech centers across Africa, starting in Juja, Kenya, a university town she describes as having “the same vibe as Silicon Valley.”

Kahiu: “We need to embrace more technology because 60% of Africans and youth in Kenya are under 35. We have a bulge of youth who’re not employed. Science and technology is the last frontier for job creation. We must prepare people for that. We import 80% of whatever we’re using. Why do we import? Why not make it in Kenya?

“If the governments of Africa invest in science and technology and put it on its pedestal as an accelerator of development, youth are encouraged to understand science better, and more importantly, to start companies.”

van Diggelen: “So you feel it needs an entrepreneurship spirit kick-started?”

Kahiu: “Yes, kick-started! There’s a need for that entrepreneurship. They’re learning theory, theory, theory.”

van Diggelen: “So commercializing these ideas?”

Kahiu: “It’s very hard…That’s what I want to do. I’ll sit in the gap between the education system and the industry and help people to see the possibilities that there are in science, technology, engineering and math.”

“Every Kenyan child that is being born deserves to know and understand technology. We don’t have a choice. If the world is accelerating the way it is doing, we’ll be left so far behind, we won’t even see the dust. I’m serious.”

“Science and technology should answer your problems. So, I meet people where they are and then we walk together …People care about drinking water, safer roads and availability of healthy foods for their kids. So these are their needs. So I’ll walk with my people from that point and we’ll walk towards particle physics…flying to the moon, or Mars…who knows? (laughter)”

The way to Silicon Valley, Los Altos Museum, Fresh Dialogues(This interview took place at the Los Altos History Museum, which is currently featuring an interactive Silicon Valley exhibit, now through April 2015)




Asal Ibrahim is a 24 year-old student from Amman, Jordan. She’s been working at a (Vista Solar) solar company in Silicon Valley, soaking up the “can do” attitude.Asal Ibrahim interviewed by Alison van Diggelen Fresh Dialogues Oct 2014

Ibrahim is enthusiastic about the state of technology in Jordan today, but admits there are many opportunities for improvement.

I asked her how Silicon Valley’s tech obsessed culture compares to that of Jordan.

Ibrahim: “It’s very similar. Everyone is obsessed with technology: holding a smart phone, interacting on social media, using it in almost every aspect of life. On an infrastructure level it needs to be improved: transportation, education is employing technology a lot…we need to improve it way more.

 “You can find anything from high tech schools to poor schools in Jordan. We have schools that are winning international competitions like Intel Science Fair or Microsoft Imagine Cup and compete worldwide with their Robotech, with their programming skills, website software. Some schools are more advanced than some universities in Jordan. We’re still lacking equipped labs for example, not only technological advances like IT, but also scientific labs.

 “Jordanians are very into technology. They can contribute a lot if they get the chance. We have a lot of international companies that have offices in Jordan, and employ large amount of engineers, like Microsoft, Sony, Yahoo.”

 Ibrahim’s goal is to encourage the massive deployment of solar power in Jordan, but she faces an uphill struggle.

“It’s not easy to push this kind of alternate power and challenge the big oil companies. We have to combine all the manpower we have, all the technology, knowledge, NGOs, advocates, to make this happen. It’s a dream that needs to be worked on at a national level.”

Ibrahim was part of a public private partnership that brought 200 Mega Watts of solar power online this year, but she’s determined to keep up the momentum.

“97% of our energy is imported, so if any of surrounding countries that provide us with oil or electricity have bad political situations, which is the case most of the times, we will be out of energy. Renewables are now 2% of energy share. It’s mostly oil now.”

So how has Ibrahim’s month in Silicon Valley inspired her?

“The most special spirit of Silicon Valley is how diverse it is. Having people from all over the world working for the state of technology, for the sake of entrepreneuring, for the sake of innovating, creating new things. How excited people are on the train in the morning – they feel happy, on a mission to accomplish…it has reached me.”

She’s learned an important lesson from her month in Silicon Valley:

Ibrahim: “No idea is bad. If you have a single idea, whether it’s a website, app, any innovation you think can change the face of technology, you should pursue this, because an idea dies if you don’t pursue it.

 “It’s all inspiring to me. Everything is possible if you have the persistence and determination to make it happen. The Jordanian culture encourages girls and boys, men to study equally; they’re very encouraged to pursue careers in STEM, to pursue technological and scientific degrees. Being in a male dominated environment in technological companies, can be a bit frightening for girls and women…there is no challenge if you show confidence and if you have a dream to pursue, no one will stand in your way.”

 Check back soon for my interview with Sierra Leone’s Fatmata Kamara who wants to bring solar power to rural areas of her country to improve the livelihood of rural communities and help in the fight against Ebola.

Find out about more inspiring women at Fresh Dialogues

Apple vs Samsung: The Battle for the Green Halo

Apple vs Samsung: The Battle for the Green Halo

By Alison van Diggelen, host of Fresh Dialogues

Yesterday, I was invited to join the live BBC World Service show, Business Matters to discuss Apple’s green manifesto and its rivalry with Samsung. I was interviewed by the BBC’s talented Manuela Saragosa. Here’s a transcript of the highlights. Listen to the full interview here (green discussion starts at 26:00).

Saragosa: It was Earth Day on Tuesday… there’s been no dimming of the lights here at the BBC…but technology giant, Apple has been laying out its green manifesto to mark Earth Day. The company’s CEO Tim Cook put out a video, announcing a new scheme that allows any product made by Apple to be returned to the company for recycling.

Our guest, Alison van Diggelen is in California’s Silicon Valley. Alison, green business issues are your thing, what do you make of Apple’s manifesto? Is there substance to it do you think?

van Diggelen: I think there is substance to it. The reason they put out this video is: Greenpeace has been snapping at Apple’s heels for quite some time. I did a story a couple of years ago (for NPR’s KQED Radio) when they were looking at data centers. Greenpeace came up with their own quasi Apple ad (cunningly called iCoal), showing that every time you download something or send a photo on your iPhone, you’re putting more smog into the atmosphere. It was very clever and got Apple’s attention, and now they’re really moving ahead (According to a recent EPA report – Apple is now in the top 10 clean energy users nationally and uses 92% clean energy). One of their major data centers (in North Carolina) where they do Apple iCloud, has 100% green power: clean energy, using solar and fuel cells.

In the video, they’re doing a little chest thumping, saying “Look at us – here’s what we’re doing!” And of course, launching it on the week of Earth Day was a very clever move, a strategic move…

I do think Apple deserves to be lauded. It could do more, but I think shining a light on what it’s doing so far is good.

Saragosa: But it’s come a hugely long way. I know that in 2006, Greenpeace published its first guide to green electronics and at that point it rated Apple among the worst companies (it ranked 11 out of 14 companies). I suppose things have changed quite a lot since then.

van Diggelen: Yes. I think Greenpeace deserves credit for doing what it can to put the pressure on. This report it released went through all the major tech companies: Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter (Amazon), saying: “Here’s what they’re doing folks!” Companies that you think of as pretty green and green advocates like Google, they’re not doing enough. They could do more.

The interesting thing with Tim Cook that your listeners will definitely be interested in is that at a recent shareholders’ meeting, someone stood up and said: “We don’t like what you’re doing with all those clean energy data centers. Couldn’t you be using your funds to make better products…do other things?”

Saragosa: But is that a widely held view?

van Diggelen: This is the interesting thing: Tim Cook struck back at them. He said: “We believe that we must make the world a better place.” He stood up and said this to the shareholders…”If you don’t agree with it, sell your shares! Which was quite gutsy of him I thought. Since then Richard Branson (CEO Virgin Atlantic etc) has said the same (He recently wrote, “Businesses should never be entirely focused on the bottom line…I would urge climate deniers to get out of our way!“) So I think it’s great to see high profile CEO’s like Tim Cook and Richard Branson are doing that, and saying: Hey! We need to think about the environment, we need to think about our impact on the environment. I’m cheered by that.

Listen to more of our discussion re Apple vs Samsung battle, copycats, tech recycling, and safe disposal of electronic goods.

We also explored attitudes to the environment and clean energy in Asia with David Kuo of the Motley Fool in Singapore; and discussed the devastating levels of pollution in China’s major cities.

van Diggelen: I recently spoke with Andrew Chung, who’s a Chinese American venture capitalist in Silicon Valley. He’s doing a lot of work in China and he was telling me about one of the (green) companies he’s investing in. The impetus in China is huge: they’re having to do it because the pollution is so intense, people are dying from the pollution.

One of these companies that’s completely addressing that is LanzaTech. They’re capturing the carbon monoxide pollution from steelmakers outside Shanghai  and using it to create valuable fuel and chemicals, rather than ‘just’ capturing it. It’s a really interesting solution: a win win. A win for the environment, but it’s also a money maker and great for the steelmakers. So that’s the kind of play that’s going on in China.

Read more about Google’s Green Dream at Fresh Dialogues