Echo River September 2023 Update
Updated: Oct 17
Do Investments in Water Technology Enable Fossil Fuel Extraction?
Creating values for any organization early on is so important in every aspect of an organization. Echo River’s values are Integrity, Ingenuity and Impact.
One of the principles underlying these values is impact - making positive contributions towards water and climate solutions. How do these values and principles play out in real life when making investment decisions? Should the Fund be long-only on positive impact? Should the fund also try to “short” or prevent negative impacts?
One controversial area in impact circles is involvement in fossil fuels. Climate champions propose a future condition that is fossil-fuel free. After all, burning fossil fuels are the main driver behind global warming. As Al Gore describes, “the climate crisis is a fossil fuel crisis”, and society should reduce burning them as deeply and swiftly as possible, without assuming help from the fossil fuel companies.
One of the negative impacts and negative externality of fossil fuel extraction, especially in fracking, is water exploitation and resulting water pollution when water is mixed with chemicals and fossil fuels. The polluted result is euphemistically called “produced water” and is usually re-injected in the ground thereby further polluting the groundwater, and often returns to the surface eventually polluting rivers and streams. Only about 20% of produced water is treated at all.
A recent NYT article on water use for fracking shows that water consumption for fossil fuel production is steadily increasing. One reason is that newer horizontal fracking wells are increasingly of higher volume as well depth and distance increases. Companies engaged in fracking don’t currently have many good options for treatment of produced water. Because fracking companies have a high willingness to pay for a solution, startup water treatment companies are applying a variety of potential solutions from filtration to destruction.
By applying the values of integrity, ingenuity and impact, it’s not clear that Echo River should invest in and support the firm’s resources towards products that may “enable” fossil fuel companies to continue expanding production and ultimately increase the burning of fossil fuels. I have held the line at supporting “enabling” technologies contributing to and accelerating the climate/fossil fuel crisis.
Is this application of principle too orthodox? After all, we realistically have 20-30 years of fossil fuel production ahead, and shouldn’t technologies be developed to minimize the water pollution effects?
Let me know what you think in the comments below.
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VODA.ai has been recognized as the "Best Smart Water Solution" at the 2023 Smart Water Summit.
Review of the book “Stolen” by Ann-Helen Laestadius
The novel ‘Stolen’ is a masterful coming-of-age story about Elsa, an indigenous girl born into the indigenous way of life of the Sami people of northern Sweden. The Sami, the only indigenous people recognized in Europe, are traditional reindeer herders who live their lives in harmony with reindeer - a way of life not unlike other peoples who share their culture with nature. The novel explores how Elsa learns about her family’s ties to the land, to nature and to individual reindeer with names that become like relatives. When local Swedes treat the reindeer as property and view them for economic value without cultural significance, challenges and traumas occur. Misunderstanding and mistreatment are rife as the author narrates a compelling and heartfelt story that reveals the difficulty of living among traditional ecological knowledge amidst modern times and climate change.