Earlier this week, Lisa Zelljadt from Point Carbon wrote of her company’s new “Carbon 2010” report, which is a worthy attempt at covering the complex set of variables involved in creating and sustaining markets for carbon allowances. The report quantifies the responses from their proprietary data and marketing survey of approximately 1,500 carbon professionals who are all involved in some way in carbon markets/ resource finance (and who are disproportionately carbon traders).
It looks at the success of market-based carbon initiatives, with particular focus on the EU Emission Trading System, where problems may be used as case studies for the eventual U.S. carbon market (as sixty percent of the respondents still think will happen by 2015).
Thus far, most people involved in the day-to-day of carbon markets come from regulated organizations (output sources) and dealers—aggregators or middlemen between governments distributing allowances and the firms that need them for compliance. Europe is suffering from an EUA (EU Emission Allowance) oversupply, and illustrates some of the problems that can occur with mispriced carbon.
Although environmental harm is disproportionately concentrated in low-income communities and communities of color, so far the green movement has largely been one of white people. The EPA’s latest top gun, Lisa Jackson, is its first African American administrator and also the first EPA administrator unafraid to speak frankly about the important overlap between environmentalism and race.
Although leaders tout the promise of green jobs uplifting urban populations, this heyday hasn’t arrived yet. Instead, the environmental movement has so far failed to meaningfully engage communities of color, though these communities often bear the brunt of environmental sins such as toxic dumping, contamination, landfills and plants that wealthy NIMBYs fought off. For the most part, typical environmental groups such as the Sierra Club and Greenpeace have not addressed domestic environmental justice issues, or have only done so narrowly.
Five years ago, 3p reported that GDP does not correlate with happiness, and that another, more holisitic metric—GPI, or Gross Progress Indicator—would be more apt. Now, in 2010, some say this is still true. This finding has been repeated and reported almost constantly in the last five years, which begs two points. First, that happiness is not related to income. Second, that GDP is the wrong metric for measuring a country’s value.
Mo’ money mo’ problems
If I recall an undergrad environmental studies lecture on this topic, The Easterlin Paradox predates 3p’s report and is probably the origin of thinking about GNH, or gross national happiness. The Easterlin Paradox, a 70’s era economic theory, refers to the phenomenon that once basic human needs are met (food, shelter, community stability, etc) human happiness does not quantitatively increase through fiscal gains.
Last week, the American Wind Energy Association held a webinar that went through a study by Navigant Consulting, pointing to the many ways passing a national renewable electricity standard would lead to an economic boon across the U.S.
It seems that the FOXNews message that a climate change bill would hurt job growth is untrue. (Surprised?) Paired with rigorous renewable energy standards, Navigant Consulting suggests that 274,000 blue collar construction jobs could be added in areas of the country that need both jobs and renewable energy. While Navigant based its assumptions on the big “if” that climate change legislation passes both houses, however its study should increase the momentum toward such a result.
In 1869, the transcontinental railroad was complete. In the 50 years following 1870, rail transportation became a mainstay in the U.S., was critical to settling the West and served as a trademark of the industrial revolution. Train use peaked in 1920, when trains carried 1.2 billion passengers.
Then rail faced a series of setbacks, in order: 20% hikes in fares, Henry Ford and the advent of cars, the Great Depression, the diesel engine, trucks and trucking fleets, commercial air, nationalization of trains (including guaranteed net income despite performance), privatization of trains, and strong ridership throughout WWII followed by a massive peacetime decline. Amtrak was created in the 70s, when air travel had emerged as the most popular consumer long distance transportation choice.
Fast forward to 2005: 3p covered a variety of Amtrak angles. Some of Nick’s first posts were even concerned with what seemed like Amtrak’s impending doom under the Bush administration . That year, 3p covered the heavy budget cuts Amtrak sustained under Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta’s (the only Clinton holdover in the Bush administration) approval, its potential bankruptcy and its apparent savior: the business community that protested Amtrak cuts, probably fearing a comprehensive withdrawal of federal support for rail freight.
It’s hard not to see the flurry of activity preceding Dec 2010’s slated electric vehicle launches as an expression of joyous excitement. A range of stakeholders are taking action, and coordinating to prepare for widespread electric vehicle ownership. But are they in fact preparing for a new Golden Age in transportation, for the most significant change since the highway? The New York Times reports that the West Coast will be the first to find out.
Infrastructure for the long haul
At the current rate of investment, even if electric vehicles flop, cities in Washington, Oregon and California will be forced to “make it work” to recoup sunk costs. Perhaps to prevent this outcome, businesses and governments are making long-term commitments that create a version of path dependence to lock in West Coast electric vehicle markets. On the other hand, the steps that communities are taking to commit to electric vehicles are also totally prudent, and are exactly what is required for systematic change. The infrastructure and policy improvements are necessary to foster a successful transition to a new automotive paradigm. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), the governing body for electricity policy in California in San Francisco, is the convenient epicenter for this frenzy of planning, collaboration and deal-making.
David Letterman isn’t the only one crazy for top ten lists; corporate sustainability rankings have become one way companies prove their green laurels to consumers. For example the Corporate Knights, a research group that also produces a magazine about sustainability, published a list of top sustainable companies that looks a lot different than 3p’s own Sustainable CEO’s List. In fact, none of the companies on 3p’s list made it on the Corporate Knights list. This article looks at why sustainability metrics differ and whose metrics to trust.
Toyota shares a compromising, cliche business story with many other firms: explosive growth at the expense of consumer protection. What can we do to break this pattern in the future? The solution is about remembering that CSR minimally means producing products that benefit consumers, a principle typically lost in deploying aggressive growth strategy.
Hasty expansion means hasty management, decision-making and production
Figuring out what went wrong with Toyota isn’t complicated or new. Toyota was founded in 1934. In 2002, it gave itself eight years to double the size of a company that it had taken sixty years to grow to its 2002 size. Taking advantage of sedan and coupe niches abandoned by the U.S. automakers’ SUV oriented brands, Toyota swooped in, scooped up marketshare and was a first mover on “green” via its Prius, both in US and international markets. The news is now replete with explanations of how Toyota’s quality standards were disregarded in favor of market penetration. Do we need specifics? The best multitaskers among us admit that doing too much too quickly always, like a law of nature, comes at the expense of quality. If rapid growth isn’t leveled by a Malthusian limits/ self-cannibalization, it is limited by quality problems, sometimes in the form of product liability disasters.
How can we grow with sanity?
1. Like Slow Food, we need a Slow Growth movement
The first step to prevent over-expansion is to stop worshiping it.
Though historically high gas prices provide a strong market demand for electric vehicles (EVs) in California, it is the state with an electric grid that is the least able to support these cars. With automakers set to launch at least a dozen EV models by 2012, California’s electricity regulators are scrambling to respond to the expected power needs, with policy to accommodate the emerging, private sector infrastructure required for widespread EV use. Meanwhile, car company CEOs are holding their breath–while also optimistically moving forward despite, regulatory uncertainty.