Oil Addiction and the Business Case for Change

One responsibility that comes from communicating with readers through media such as blogs is to define terms as they are going to be used in various postings and follow-up by consistent usage of those terms according to their stated definitions. In this instance, three terms are offered for consideration in this and related postings about business opportunities: business case, business model, and business plan.

Wikipedia defines “business case” in the context of an existing business wherein certain changes are being considered. While this is certainly a useful construct in project management practices, it need not be limited solely to that purview. It is also a valuable tool for entrepreneurs to draw upon when determining start-up possibilities or expanding an existing business far beyond the boundaries and scope of its original charter.

Business cases lead to “business models.” A business model is the approach a business intends follow in order to generate revenue, control expenditures, and make a profit. More than one business model is possible in response to strong business cases. The challenge is crafting and adopting an appropriate business model that leads to a successful business within a given set of circumstances. It is a bit like playing chess and determining the opening one is going to use based on personality and temperament as much as intellect, skill, and experience. Determining and applying business models in response to business cases spawns creative experimentation that typifies entrepreneurial efforts.

A “business plan” covers comprehensive information, in-depth analysis, and detailed description about how practical application of the business model is accomplished successfully over time. Putting a business plan together demands that one think past overly optimistic assumptions about revenues and underestimates of capitalization costs and operating expenses. This exercise brings a critical level of discipline to choosing a business model. And if support from others is required to get the business going, a business plan is an excellent communication medium through which one’s attention to detail and exercise of due diligence is documented.

An earlier posting, “Addicted to Oil,” points out that such a level of dependence drives concern for quantity and quality of the addictive agent and consequences of use for the addict and the social systems that support the addict. It also turns up the heat in the addict’s thinking to consider the possibility of not succumbing to the powers of the addictive agent and choosing an alternative path of recovery. The foundation for an addict’s travels to a clean and sober life is a totally different structure and behavior than the basis for the one that supported the addiction. It requires significant sustained commitment to move from the addictive structure to the clean and sober structure. And there are many bumps in the road that test commitment and resolve. This is an act not to be taken lightly.

Recovery from oil addiction entails securing energy from renewable sources rather than fossil fuels. This is a costly route to take since the current global system is setup to generate, deliver, and consume energy from fossil fuels, not renewable sources. To make the switch requires a considerable investment of time, money, and talent to develop and apply the technologies that will make renewable energy system feasible. Such investment will not happen without the assurance that there is a business case for doing so.

Making the shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources requires a business case based on irrefutable evidence that not doing so will result in highly undesirable consequences. In recovery, the addict must “reach bottom” before beginning the long ascent out of the dark pit. With oil addiction that point is reached when the realization that to continue unchecked is simply an untenable position. In other words a “tipping point” is reached from which there is no turning back.

In a December 22, The New York Times 1 editorial by Thomas Friedman entitled “And the Color of the Year Is…,” he writes:

We reached a tipping point this year — where living, acting, designing, investing and manufacturing green came to be understood by a critical mass of citizens, entrepreneurs and officials as the most patriotic, capitalistic, geopolitical, healthy and competitive thing they could do. Hence my own motto: ‘Green is the new red, white and blue.’

It appears that in the minds of some the point of no return from black to green has passed. Regardless of how far beyond this point we are, it is safe to conclude that business opportunities in the renewable energy sector and the proliferation of business models and plans they spawn are nigh. We are taking first, but strong steps out of the black hole of addiction along the green path of recovery. And this growth in business possibilities will not remain within the realm of the energy sector alone. Due to the tightly woven interconnections among them, the fuel, food, feed, floriculture, and fiber industries as a whole will be transformed. A budding renaissance for agriculture is in the making. Stay tuned for more!

Originally posted to New Media Explorer by Steve Bosserman on Friday, December 29, 2006

  1. Original posting to the Stop Global Warming website is no longer available online

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