It is no secret that education is the surest route to a better life, but for tens of thousands of low-income students in developing nations, high costs mean that access to it continues to be the stuff of fantasy. Student loans are notoriously hard to come by outside of the U.S. and Europe, largely due to the fact that banks have no track record of repayments that can be used to assess risk, and students generally don’t have collateral or a credit history to prove that they can pay back loans.
The answer to this classic “chicken-or-the-egg” problem could lay with crowdfunding, which not only presents an opportunity to get tuition loans to students who need them, but also to build a “track record of repayment” that will encourage financial institutions to offer more loans to students.
The jury might still be out on when the world will run out of oil, but the rising human and economic costs associated with climate change, air pollution and overall environmental decline are accelerating the world towards a low-carbon economy. In recognition of this reality, a half-dozen investors recently filed shareholder resolutions with 10 fossil fuel companies, including Exxon Mobil and Chevron, seeking an explanation of their strategies for competing in a low-carbon global market.
Southern Company, Hess, Anadarko, Devon, Kinder Morgan, Peabody Energy, FirstEnergy and CONSOL Energy also received resolutions.
The resolutions focus on potential carbon asset risk, or the possibility that these companies’ present and future fossil fuel-related assets will lose value as various market factors—such as energy efficiency, renewable energy, fuel economy, fuel switching, carbon pollution standards, efforts to curb air pollution and climate policy—increasingly reduce demand for fossil fuels and related infrastructure.
According to the shareholders, fossil fuel companies are not sufficiently disclosing these risks, even after a coalition of investors managing more than $3 trillion in collective assets sent letters last fall to 45 of the world’s largest fossil fuel companies urging them to report on this very same concern. Resolution filers include the Connecticut State Treasurer’s Office, the New York State Comptroller’s Office, Arjuna Capital, As You Sow, First Affirmative Financial Network and the Unitarian Universalist Association.
Speaking against the backdrop of one of the worst droughts in California history, President Barack Obama on Friday announced plans to pitch to Congress a $1 billion climate change resilience fund intended to help communities facing climate change-induced negative weather.
The proposed fund is separate from Obama’s wider climate action plan and will be included in his 2015 budget, set to be released next month. This means the fund must be authorized by Congress and will not rely solely on executive authority. According to the White House, the fund would finance research on the projected impacts of climate change, help communities prepare for its effects, and fund “breakthrough technologies and resilient infrastructure.”
Last week, the Assistant to the President on Science and Technology, John Holdren, said without any doubt, the severe drought afflicting California and several other states across the country is tied to climate change.
In the wake of the tragic New Year’s death of a 6-year-old girl in San Francisco caused by an on-duty Uber driver, along with another recent collision involving a Lyft driver, the public’s attention has turned to the insurance gaps in the fledgling ridesharing industry. To help bridge these gaps, Lyft announced last week a new Peer-to-Peer Rideshare Insurance Coalition, comprised of transportation companies, regulators, insurance providers and other stakeholders that have come together to address how the insurance industry can continue evolving to support the ridesharing economy.
With the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) as a founding member, the coalition’s mission is to build a foundation of insurance best practices, policies and information for P2P ridesharing. Earlier this week, Lyft published an official list of the coalition members, which in addition to Lyft and CPUC includes: Sidecar, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for U.S. DOT, Allstate Insurance, Esurance, Farmers Insurance and even Uber (although initially it was reported that Uber would not take part).
Lyft says the coalition will work to drive additional partnerships between insurance carriers and P2P ridesharing participants, while providing information resources for regulators, drivers and riders to “ensure a safe and trusted future for the emerging peer economy.”
Popular ridesharing companies like Uber, Lyft and Sidecar have long-operated in a legal gray zone. While the California Public Utilities Commission’s (CPUC) unanimous approval of new regulations around ridesharing services last September helped to clear some of the ambiguity, scores of questions remain. Chief of these are liability issues — just who is to blame when things go wrong with ridesharing?
Last Monday, Uber found itself slapped with the first wrongful death lawsuit ever brought against a Transportation Networking Company (TNC) after one of its drivers, Syed Muzzafar, hit and killed a 6-year-old girl on New Years Eve in San Francisco.
“This tragedy did not involve a vehicle or provider doing a trip on the Uber system,” the company said. Uber spokesman Andrew Noyes said the company had no comment on the lawsuit.
While at first it may seem that Uber has a point — Muzzafar was not driving on the Uber clock at the time of the accident — companies can be found responsible for causing wrongful death and emotional distress even if the party that committed the crime is a completely independent third party.
PandoDaily cites the case of Weirum et al. vs. RKO General, Inc., where a radio station sponsored a contest involving one of its DJs driving around town and having teenagers “find” him for a prize. This resulted in reckless teen driving that culminated in the death of an innocent man, and the radio station was held responsible.
If there is one thing we in the West love, it’s our gadgets. Smartphones, tablets, iPottys – we’ll take ‘em all. And the rest of the world is catching on – in Q3 2013 the global smartphone market grew 38.8 percent, thanks to China’s growing appetite for low-cost Android phones.
This is because technology is awesome. Through it we can access information (and each other) like never before in the history of the world. Using a smartphone or tablet, we can FaceTime a friend living on the other side of the country, then text message one living on the other side of the planet (for free) using Viber. Letting our friends, ex’s and high school acquaintances know about the gluten-free burrito we ate for lunch last Tuesday has never been easier.
Technology’s awesomeness is the primary focus of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), an internationally renowned electronics and technology trade show held each January in Las Vegas. Attended by major companies and industry professionals worldwide, it is the place to be if you want to be “in the know” of the latest and greatest in the tech world.
But this year, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich reminded us that the cost of producing these technological wonders goes well beyond dollar signs. Always absent from the final price tag of these items are the externalities of shattered human dignity and lost lives.
At the beginning of the 20th century, 16 U.S. battleships — all painted white with gilded bows — set off on an unprecedented two-year voyage around the world. Dispatched by President Theodore Roosevelt as a show of America’s newfound naval might, the “Great White Fleet” ushered in a new era of U.S. involvement in global affairs.
More than a century later in 2009, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced that the Navy would demonstrate and then deploy a “Great Green Fleet,” a carrier strike group fueled by alternative energy sources. Developing the Great Green Fleet was one of five energy goals set by Mabus to reduce the Department of the Navy’s consumption of energy, decrease its reliance on foreign sources of oil and significantly increase its use of alternative energy. Mabus has also committed to obtaining at least 50 percent of the energy used by the Navy and Marine Corps from alternative sources by 2020.
Ambitious? Yes. Feasible? Definitely.
Ed Note: This post is Mike Howers’ entry into Masdar’s 2014 blogging contest for a shot at a trip to Abu Dhabi. If you’d like to enter, there’s still time. Just follow these instructions. The deadline is Jan 3nd! To vote for Mike’s entry, click here.
From the first cities in ancient Mesopotamia to modern metropolises, urban locales have served as cultural and commercial hubs for societies across the globe. As of 2008, the world’s urban population finally surpassed that of the rural — and this trend is expected to continue into the foreseeable future. By 2050, an estimated 70 percent of the 9 billion people then-living on this planet will reside in cities.
While high population density is often seen as the root of all urban evil, there is a flip side.
“Due to the density of population and industry, cities can act as concentrated areas where policy can be implemented in an efficient manner,” said Benjamin Goldstein, a Canadian friend of mine who researches environmental engineering at the Danish Technical University in Denmark.
But what exactly should these policies be?
Entrepreneurship is about imagination and action, envisioning solutions to both new and long-standing problems, and innovating to make them a reality. Sustainable business was born of the realization that we cannot continue down our current path if we hope to achieve a proud and prosperous future. Innovation became its lifeblood.
Recent years have seen an explosion of start-ups focused not only on generating profit, but also bettering the planet and everyone living on it. Whether it’s tackling climate change, alleviating global poverty or reducing landfill burdens, these entrepreneurs are figuring out how to make a living while also making a difference.
Here are some of our favorites from 2013:
My first experience with ridesharing came in 2011 when I lived and taught in a low-income barrio of Bogotá, Colombia. No city buses ventured to my neighborhood. To get to and from work, I depended on what I dubbed the “Jalopy Express,” which entailed waiting by the roadside and hailing unmarked clunkers when they passed by. If I was lucky, one would stop just long enough for me to jump in, where I would sit crammed alongside one too many Bogotanos. When I wanted to exit the vehicle, I yelled “¡parada, por favor!” and hardly had both feet out the door before the jalopy sped off.
While Bogotá had some semblance of a public transportation grid in its wealthier northern neighborhoods, those living in the poorer south relied on the Jalopy Express and a few colectivo (private buses) to get around. This nascent form of ridesharing helped to solve the several transportation problems the city was unable or unwilling to solve.
In the United States, though most cities have much more developed transportation grids than those in developing countries, the average commuter still loses 34 hours a year to congestion delays, according to Deloitte. This translates to 4.76 billion hours wasted by all American commuters, and results in $429 million in opportunity costs every day (or $160 billion annually).
“Made in America” labels aren’t exactly a common sight these days. Check the tag on the shirt or pants you are wearing, and chances are it will read “Made in… [China], [Bangladesh], [Vietnam] or…” Well, you get the point. Your flashy new iPhone 5S? Before you even opened the box, it already was more well-traveled than you are.
More than 97 percent of apparel and 98 percent of shoes sold in the U.S. are made overseas, according to the American Apparel & Footwear Association. Contrast this with the 1960s, when around 95 percent of apparel worn in the U.S. was made at home.
But most American consumers want to buy American. Given a choice between a product made in the U.S. and an identical one made abroad, 78 percent of Americans would rather buy the American product, according to a February 2013 survey by the Consumer Reports National Research Center.
Why? In the same survey, more than 80 percent cited retaining manufacturing jobs and keeping American manufacturing strong in the global economy as very important reasons for buying American. Roughly 60 percent claimed concern about the use of child workers or other cheap labor overseas, or stated that American-made goods were of higher quality.
Delta Air Lines recently joined other oil industry trade groups to fight the U.S. biofuel mandate that requires refiners to meet an annual biofuel quota, either through production or through the purchase of credits.
The airline filed a lawsuit through its year-old refiner, Monroe Energy, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that challenges the EPA’s 2013 renewable fuel requirements, according to FuelFix.
Under the EPA policy, refiners generate renewable identification numbers (basically, compliance credits) for every gallon of biofuel they incorporate. Monroe’s status as a “merchant refiner” that sells unblended products to wholesale marketers means it must always purchase credits. The refiner, in its Oct. 4 federal court petition, claimed this forces it to spend millions of dollars to acquire compliance credits at what it says are “artificially inflated” prices.
Monroe’s chief financial officer Frank Pici said in written comments filed with the EPA in June that the agency’s policies are creating winners and losers in the oil industry, with his company on the latter side. The winners will inevitably be vertically integrated refiners that can blend biofuels, and small refiners eligible to seek exemptions from the renewable fuel requirements.
“Corporations are people, my friend,” Governor Mitt Romney told a heckler at the Iowa State Fair during the 2012 Presidential Election. While he later backtracked after widespread backlash (and a major drop in the polls), Romney’s claim was correct – as far as the Supreme Court is concerned.
In January 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 310 (2010), that political spending is “a form of protected speech under the First Amendment, and the government may not keep corporations or unions from spending money to support or denounce individual candidates in elections.”
In other words, the Court proclaimed that companies should enjoy the same basic human rights as you and I, giving firms the First Amendment right of freedom of speech – with spending money being a form of speech.
Later that year, in SpeechNow.org v. Federal Election Commission, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia applied the Citizens United ruling in an unprecedented manner, proclaiming that the federal government may not require an unincorporated association that makes only independent expenditures to register and report as a political committee.
The result? The rise of Super PACS (Political Action Committees) as a means of influencing elections, while keeping donors’ personal identities in the dark. While Super PACS are prohibited from donating money directly to political candidates, they can raise unlimited sums of money from corporations, unions, associations and individuals, then spend unlimited amounts to overtly advocate for or against political candidates.
Next time you pop open a Pale Ale, you can feel a little less guilty (not that you ever should). Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. announced last week that it now diverts 99.8 percent of its waste, earning it the first platinum certification from the U.S. Zero Waste Business Council.
This was no mere feel-good eco project, but serious business – the company says its waste-management efforts resulted in $5,398,470 in avoided disposal costs and $903,308 in 2012 revenue. That’s a lot of green.
Additionally, by diverting 51,414 tons from landfill and incineration, Sierra Nevada avoided 11,812 tons of carbon dioxide, according to USZWBC. Last year, Sierra Nevada’s Terrence Sullivan told TriplePundit that the brewery captures and recycles 95 percent of all carbon dioxide produced during fermentation and then reuses it. Not too shabby.
After auditing the Zero Waste diversion processes at Sierra Nevada in Chico, Calif., USZWBC found that the facility is successfully reducing, reusing, recycling and composting at an unprecedented rate.
Nearly 3,000 miners and workers from across the coal industry descended on Capitol Hill late last month to protest President Obama’s alleged “War on Coal” — more specifically the proposed carbon emission rules the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently released for new power plants, and will release for existing plants in 2014.
The rules, pursuant of the Clean Air Act, would cap carbon emissions at future coal-fired power plants at 1,100 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour and 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour for new natural gas power plants. With the average coal-fired power plant emitting around 1,800 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour, both new and existing power plants would be forced to clean up their act.
The rally was organized by the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE), which has a history of opposing climate change legislation. Around 30 members of Congress also attended the event, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and even a few coal-country Democrats.