Seattle Has the Greenest Drivers; What About Its Cleantech Companies?

Tired of city rankings yet? OK, I’ll be brief. So the July/August issue of Men’s Health, out this week, ranks Seattle #1 in “most environmentally conscious” drivers. Not that surprisingly, the Northwest did well in the survey overall: Portland, OR, and Spokane, WA, also made the top 10. The analysis of 100 American cities took into account gas consumption, annual mileage, vehicle efficiency, air quality, and mass-transit usage.

My colleague Luke and I have certainly done our part—we both recently ditched our cars. But how are local companies doing on greening up transportation, energy, and other technologies?

Startup activity in the cleantech space is certainly one good measure. According to DowJones VentureSource data for 2007, Washington state came in third in VC investments in cleantech (behind California and Massachusetts), with $175 million. It was dominated by a few big Seattle-based company deals: biodiesel maker Imperium Renewables raised $117 million in equity, but canceled its IPO at the end of the year; Targeted Growth, an agricultural biotech company, raised $22 million; Powerit Holdings landed $7 million; and Propel Biofuels raised $4.75 million.

(For a sense of what a larger cleantech cluster looks like, see the MIT Entrepreneurship Center’s energy map of New England here. Of course, it takes a lot of driving to visit all those companies.)

There is also some anecdotal evidence that local employers have contributed to the greening of Seattle. Microsoft and a few other companies run employee shuttles throughout the area. And roughly 70 percent of biotech giant Amgen’s staff in Seattle use something other than a single-occupancy vehicle to commute, says company spokesperson Carol Pawlak. Amgen runs a shuttle service from downtown, subsidizes bus and ferry transportation, and arranges van pools.

Xconomy doesn’t do that yet, but at least Luke and I will be getting our exercise.

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