The Great Debate

Obama’s worthy EPA nominee deserves support

The era of “simple” environmental problems is over. Today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and state regulators face issues, like climate change, that are complex from all angles: scientific, economic and political. At the same time, some of the EPA’s regulatory tools—like the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), a law that was crafted decades ago—are cumbersome or inadequate. And there is virtually no chance that our gridlocked Congress will come to the rescue and agree on how to modernize reforms.

This complexity makes Gina McCarthy, President Obama’s nominee for EPA Administrator, precisely the kind of leader the agency needs. McCarthy is a strong environmental advocate, but she is pragmatic about how to achieve an end. She has worked across the aisle and with industry leaders to accomplish the EPA’s goals. As an executive at Intel, I’ve worked with McCarthy over the past four years, while she led the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. She is a problem solver who relies on science, economics and common sense.

One key example is the way she applied a Supreme Court ruling that the EPA can regulate greenhouse gases as pollutants under the Clean Air Act. Under McCarthy’s leadership, the EPA found a way to address the major sources of air pollution without regulating every neighborhood dry cleaner and gas station, as the act seemed to require. She focused the agency’s new permitting regulations on the bigger, more environmentally significant sources of greenhouse emissions—an approach that helped protect the environment while also growing the economy and encouraging innovation.

In the case of semiconductor manufacturing, the Clean Air Act has threatened our ability to make a product in different ways—a flexibility that has helped the industry expand in the U.S. The act requires permitting that is time-consuming, but not harmful for most companies. These procedural delays, however, hurt the rapid-fire pace of semiconductor production. At Intel we didn’t request, nor did we receive, an exemption from the rule. Instead, we approached McCarthy and the agency about solving these problems, and McCarthy pushed her staff to find a smarter way to apply the statute to the realities of our industry. As a result, Intel and other semiconductor companies can continue to grow and create new, high-wage jobs in American factories. Finding a solution to this problem enabled Intel to follow through on plans to build new U.S. factories and create new U.S. jobs. This sort of leadership has laid the groundwork for a long-term partnership between McCarthy and industry leaders.

Looking forward, one of EPA’s biggest challenges will be implementing the decades-old TSCA, the nation’s principal vehicle for protecting people and the environment from chemicals. Everyone, from chemical manufacturers to environmentalists, agrees that TSCA is broken and needs to be fixed or replaced. To make TSCA work in a world where new chemicals and materials are constantly hitting the market, the EPA must be pragmatic and creative. McCarthy’s track record implementing the Clean Air Act suggests she is up to this challenge.

Will McAfee turn Intel inside out?

CES/The following is a guest post by Robert Cringely, who has been writing about technology since 1987 and blogging since 1997. His work can be read at his blog. The views expressed are his own.

Intel, the world’s largest semiconductor company, announced this morning that it is buying McAfee Associates, a data security software company, for $7.68 billion — Intel’s largest acquisition ever. Why would Intel do such a thing? The company is on a roll with gross profit margins over 60 percent, more than 80 percent market share, and banking in excess of $1 billion per month in profit. So, why mess around with software? Because Intel’s semiconductor business is as big as it can get, literally, and it has to find a use for all that cash.

Two weeks ago Intel settled a long-standing anti-trust dispute with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. The terms of that settlement, which involved no fine or payment by Intel, came down to the company agreeing to mind its manners and not work too hard to hurts its major competitors, companies like Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) and NVIDIA. In practical terms, that means putting the brakes on certain internal Intel programs intended to crush those companies which are now protected.

from Commentaries:

Apple-Google learn Corporate Governance 1.0

LONDON, Aug 3 (Reuters) - The resignation of Google CEO Eric Schmidt from Apple's board should come as no surprise to anyone with an inkling of what corporate governance means.

But then Silicon Valley's idea of corporate boards has long consisted of cozy, interlocking directorships which would be considered collusion in most other industries.

Google's CEO is not leaving Apple's board voluntarily. He is only stepping down in response to the increased government scrutiny of obvious potential conflicts of interest between the two companies.

China’s Web filtering starts in the West

Eric Auchard– Eric Auchard is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own –

The Chinese government has backed away from mandating filtering software on all personal computers in China, in a move that averts a dangerous escalation in its censorship powers.

But however controversial and unworkable China’s plan to require Internet filters on PCs proved to be, Western firms have largely themselves to blame for creating and selling such filters in the first place.