3p Contributor: Bill DiBenedetto

writer, editor, reader and general good (ok mostly good, well sometimes good) guy trying to get by

Recent Articles

U.K. Standards Group Calls Out Peabody Energy for Misleading ‘Clean Coal’ Claim

| Tuesday August 26th, 2014 | 0 Comments

coal-fired power plant_emilian robert vicolNo matter how one mines or washes it, there’s no such thing as clean coal, despite what politicians and the coal industry say. So, it’s refreshing to see the U.K.’s Advertising Standards Authority bar Peabody Energy from making that misleading claim in its “Advanced Energy for Life” ad campaign.

The ASA ruled, in a case brought by the World Wildlife Fund, that Peabody Energy should not use the term “clean coal” to imply that coal is emission-free or “the solution for better, longer and healthier lives.” The ad says “energy poverty” is the “world’s No. 1 human and environmental crisis,” and Peabody Energy “is working to build awareness and support to end energy poverty, increase access to low-cost electricity and improve emissions using today’s advanced clean coal technologies.”

ASA said, “The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Peabody Energy, Inc. to ensure that future ads did not state or imply that their technologies were emission-free or similar unless they could demonstrate that this was the case.”

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Coal Export Terminal Plan Nixed by Oregon Agency

| Thursday August 21st, 2014 | 0 Comments

Banner Protest_GreenpeaceAnd then were two. Oregon’s Department of State Lands on Monday denied an Ambre Energy proposal to transport coal by rail to a Port of Morrow, Oregon terminal for eventual export to China and other Asian markets.

This is the latest in a series of wins for opponents of coal company plans to move coal through the Pacific Northwest on the way to Asian markets. But two major plans in Washington state, out of six original proposals, are still pending. The two proposals that remain on the table are the Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point north of Bellingham, and the Millennium Bulk Terminal at Longview on the Columbia River.

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China, The Nature Conservancy Work to Curb Pollution

| Tuesday August 19th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Chongqing_Sam GaoChina produces the most greenhouse gases in the world. But the country, in conjunction with the Nature Conservancy, is working to curb the causes and effects of climate change.

It might seem like a strange partnership between a nonprofit and a huge nation, but it might work. TNC’s Conservation Blueprint project identified 32 regions that the organization and the Chinese government believe are most vital to the country’s environmental future. Currently the U.S.-based conservation group is analyzing how ecosystem-based adaptation strategies “can help those regions thrive.”

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Shrugging Off the Libertarian Fantasy

| Friday August 15th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Lake Erie algal bloom_michiganseagrantHow does one counter the libertarian idea that unfettered markets coupled with minimum government can actually work?

The Libertarian Party’s slogan, “Minimum Government, Maximum Freedom,” sounds attractive, but only in a specious and simplistic way. As I see it, the Libertarian world view is basically stuck in the fantasy-science fiction world of Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged.”

Rand, along with Nathaniel Branden, also wrote “The Virtue of Selfishness: A New Concept of Egoism,” a 1964 collection of essays and papers that has virtually nothing useful to offer regarding today’s climate of rising economic inequality and environmental danger — except that the one-percent has taken the virtue of selfishness to heart.

The Nobel laureate, economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman recently offered a counterpoint to a long New York Times Magazine article by Robert Draper that profiled young Libertarians — basically, people who combine free-market economics with permissive social views — and asked whether we might be heading for a “libertarian moment.”

Krugman’s answer? “Probably not. Polling suggests that young Americans tend, if anything, to be more supportive of the case for a bigger government than their elders.”

Then he asks a different and more important question, especially for fans of Sen. Rand Paul: Is libertarian economics at all realistic?

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Third Party Quality Assurance for Sustainability Reports on the Rise

| Thursday August 7th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Assurance in the USSustainability reporting should be comprehensive, transparent, non-biased and standardized, and the best way to improve the quality of reporting, according to the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), is to get those sustainability reports externally assured, i.e. reviewed by a third party.

GRI pioneered the use of a comprehensive “Sustainability Reporting Framework,” comprising reporting guidelines and sector disclosures, to help enable organizations to identify and better manage risks and opportunities.

In a new report, Trends in External Assurance of Sustainability Report, GRI reports that over the past 12 years it has witnessed “a tremendous and rapid uptake of sustainability reporting, and an increasingly growing trend towards external assurance by organizations worldwide.” The report, released last month, notes that 45 percent of GRI-based sustainability reports published by organizations worldwide last year were externally assured, compared to 38 percent in 2011.

In the U.S., the number of companies publishing externally assured, GRI-based sustainability reports rose from 10 percent in 2011 to 16 percent in 2013. “This growth is both expected and welcome,” the reports says.

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Sponging Up Solar Energy

| Friday August 1st, 2014 | 0 Comments

steam spongeLeave it to those smarties at MIT to come up with something that sounds more like science fiction than reality: a new “material structure” that generates steam by soaking up the sun’s rays.

As reported last week by Science Daily, this sponge-like structure is a layer of graphite flakes and an underlying carbon foam, which all works to create a “porous, insulating material structure that floats on water. When sunlight hits the structure’s surface, it creates a hotspot in the graphite, drawing water up through the material’s pores, where it evaporates as steam. The brighter the light, the more steam is generated.”

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More Utilities Are Shifting to Renewable Energy

| Wednesday July 30th, 2014 | 1 Comment

ceres picThe “new reality” facing electricity consumers and their utility companies is that renewable energy is meeting an increasingly larger share of U.S. energy needs, according to a report released this month from Ceres and Clean Edge.

That translates into more and better choices and a clean energy future.

“Renewables — including wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, waste heat and small-scale hydroelectric — accounted for a whopping 49 percent of new U.S. electric generating capacity in 2012, with new wind development outpacing even natural gas,” writes Jon Wellinghoff, partner at Stoel Rives LLP and former chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in the report.

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ExxonMobil to Comply with LGBT Executive Order

| Tuesday July 29th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Exxon Gas Station_ T N JonesExxonMobil said last week that it will comply with the protections for gay, lesbian and transgender employees required of federal contractors. But it’s unclear whether the oil major will formalize that by changing the language of its equal opportunity corporate policy.

A recent Associated Press story noted that President Barack Obama’s signing of an executive order on July 21 expanded protections for federal workers and contractors from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The Labor Department has 90 days to issue regulations for how employers must comply.

“Exxon, which according to government records won more than $480 million in federal contracts in 2013 and more than $8 billion since 2006, has long resisted pressure from civil rights groups and shareholders to enumerate such protections in its formal policy,” according to the AP account.

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One Year On: Bangladesh Worker Safety Alliance Charts Progress

| Friday July 25th, 2014 | 0 Comments

bangladesh garment workerBangladesh’s Rana Plaza building collapse and the deaths of more than 1,100 workers in April 2013 triggered calls for better conditions in the garment industry. From that singular event, the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety was created to drive improvements, but a year later and despite some real progress, there is still much more to do.

Reversing decades of sweatshop conditions suddenly exposed by the building collapse will take time and a lot of money. Work to bring Bangladeshi factories used by North American retailers up to acceptable fire and building safety standards will cost more than $100 million and take at least 18 months to complete, according to the alliance’s first annual report released this week.

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No Tesla Charging Stations? Chinese Business Man Builds His Own

| Monday July 21st, 2014 | 2 Comments

tesla_chinaYou bought that spiffy new all-electric Tesla Model S, so why not build the charging stations to go along with it?

This is what Chinese businessman Yi Zong decided to do after he purchased his Tesla earlier this year. He realized that charging his vehicle would be a problem in China because, well, there are few stations in that country. Zong installed recharging facilities on his own dime, or yuan as the case may be, in 16 cities between Beijing and his home in Guangzhou — a 3,573-mile corridor.

Zong, one of the first Chinese owners of the Model S, calls his project the country’s “first electric-charging road,” according to a report at Caixin Online, a Beijing-based media group.

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Buying Gas Gets Easier with SAP, Toyota, VeriFone Technology

| Wednesday July 9th, 2014 | 1 Comment

old station_pete zarriaThe day when technology rules the road gets closer all the time. SAP AG, Toyota InfoTechnology Center and VeriFone have developed a prototype system that features a one-touch screen that directs drivers to the nearest gas station and authorizes payment electronically.

And the driver can even receive personalized coupons! Promotions! Loyalty points!

It’s called connected fueling in the connected vehicle — a brave new world for the fossil-fuel consumer. The companies announced the prototype at the 14th SAP Automotive Forum, early this month in Leipzig, Germany.

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Ceres: Half of America’s Largest Companies Don’t Report on Climate Risk

| Monday July 7th, 2014 | 1 Comment

climate changeRisk assessment is risky and often murky business, and it’s generally acknowledged that the globe’s climate is at risk — so how companies assess the financial impact of climate change in their risk portfolios should be an important consideration, both for shareholders and bottom lines, right?

Maybe not so much, it seems. Ceres, a nonprofit advocacy group that focuses on corporate sustainability, contends that not many companies believe climate change will have a material impact on their business. “Roughly half of the 3,000 biggest publicly traded companies in the U.S. say mum’s the word, reporting zilch in their annual filings to U.S. regulators,” it says.

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World Bank: Climate Change Policies Will Boost Global Economy

| Monday June 30th, 2014 | 5 Comments

WorldBank_Smart0Development0MaThe economic argument against taking action on climate change — i.e., “It’s just too expensive!” — is fast becoming passé, with a World Bank report this month noting that policies to cut carbon pollution might actually boost the global economy by up to $2.6 trillion a year.

Yes, that’s trillion!

This is the first time that “climate-smart” project scenarios have been tallied on such a large scale to find out how government actions can boost economic performance and benefit lives, jobs, crops, energy and GDP – as well as emissions reductions to combat climate change.

The 88-page report, “Climate-Smart Development: Adding Up the Benefits of Actions that Help Build Prosperity, End Poverty and Combat Climate Change,” focuses on five countries – Brazil, China, India, Mexico, and the United States – plus the European Union. Big benefits will flow by 2030 if that group implements just three sets of policies on clean transportation, energy efficiency in industry and energy efficiency in buildings, the report asserts.

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Target Pushes ‘Long-Term Value’ in 2013 Sustainability Report

| Tuesday June 24th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Target turns 50_AllenTarget’s 2013 sustainability report says the ultimate definition of a sustainable business means investing in the “ongoing well-being” of its customers, team, shareholders and communities.

Even during a time of growth and challenges, that is the continuing priority, says John Mulligan, interim president and CEO, EVP and chief financial officer. “It’s not about ‘going green.’ It’s about making sure the partnerships we take, the processes we follow and the products we sell are helping us create long-term value that goes beyond Target and into the communities we serve.”

Worthy words indeed. How is Target doing?

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Oakland City Council Moves on Coal Transport Ban

| Wednesday June 18th, 2014 | 1 Comment

2113747638_33ca920f07_zThe Oakland City Council just approved resolutions opposing the transportation of coal and other fossil fuels in Oakland and the East Bay.

The council  unanimously approved the resolutions by consent Tuesday evening, citing the problems with using coal trains through the urban area. Such problems included environmental threats, public health hazards, economic pitfalls, and public opposition to exports, specifically coal. 

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