3p Contributor: Phil Covington

Phil Covington holds an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School. In the past, he spent 16 years in the freight transportation and logistics industry. Today, Phil's writing focuses on electric vehicles and sustainable business matters in general. Twitter: @PhilCovBlog

Recent Articles

Indonesia’s 2nd Largest Pulp And Paper Company “APRIL” Falls Short In Forest Management Policy

| Friday March 7th, 2014 | 1 Comment
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Natural Rainforest, Sumatra

At the end of January, environmental science and conservation news site Mongabay, reported that Indonesian Paper giant, Asia Pacific Resources International Holdings Ltd (APRIL) had announced a new environmental policy aimed to stem criticism about its forestry practices, which continue to be deleterious to Indonesia’s natural rain forests.

APRIL is Indonesia’s second largest pulp and paper producer after Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), and the two account for about 80 percent of the country’s total pulp and paper output. In recent months we have written extensively about APP’s ongoing commitment to their forest clearing moratorium and increasing transparency under their Forest Conservation Policy (FCP) – so APRIL’s announcement at face value is a welcome one; However it’s also one, as Mongabay says, that has been “immediately blasted” by activist groups.

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Tesla’s ‘Gigafactory’ To Produce More Than Car Batteries

| Tuesday March 4th, 2014 | 2 Comments

Tesla MotorsLast week, Tesla announced that it would build a new “Gigafactory” to produce lithium-ion batteries at a rate able to support the manufacture of 500,000 electric cars per year. By 2020, the plant will be capable of producing as many lithium-ion batteries as the entire world produced in 2013.

The Gigafactory, Tesla says, will support 6,500 jobs directly, and according to a post on the company’s blog, the company expects that volume manufacturing of its mass-market vehicle will drive down the cost-per-kWh of its batteries by 30 percent in the first year.

The mass-market vehicle, yet to be released, will be designated the Model E. According to a report in TechCrunch, it will be 20 percent smaller than the current Model S, with a target range of 200 miles. While that’s fewer than the maximum range of the Model S, it’s ahead of any other pure EV currently on the market. Cheaper batteries may be crucial in cutting costs sufficiently to allow the company to produce the more affordable car, but the new factory also plays into more diverse plans for the company.

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Report: Fugitive Emissions Cancel Out Net Climate Benefit of Natural Gas

| Friday February 28th, 2014 | 0 Comments
Natural Gas well

Natural gas well

Natural gas has frequently been described as a bridge fuel to a low-carbon energy future for at least a couple of promising reasons. Firstly, there’s an abundance of the stuff, and secondly burning natural gas produces only about half the CO2 emissions as coal. In theory, at least, replacing coal-fired power stations with natural gas ones, and converting large trucks from diesel to natural gas, are ways to reap significant real-time climate benefits.

That said, however, there is a general Achilles-heel in the whole natural gas energy system, which is that it’s leaky. Leaks occur not only in production of natural gas, but also in storage and transmission of it, and because natural gas is 80 percent methane (CH4), which is around 30 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2, when it leaks, it’s a big deal.

And it turns out, it’s a bigger deal than previously thought. A new report by Stanford University finds that America’s natural gas system is much more leaky than previously estimated, and maybe up to 50 percent more so than the EPA estimates. Of course, this is pretty significant because the benefits of burning lower-CO2 natural gas as an alternative to coal and oil, must be weighed against the deleterious effects of extensive methane leakage–but how bad is it? And is it bad enough that natural gas cannot be considered a viable bridge fuel to a lower carbon future?

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Asia Pulp and Paper: One Year After the Forest-Clearing Moratorium

| Monday February 24th, 2014 | 1 Comment
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APP’s Mill in Perawang, Sumatra, Indonesia

Last fall we reported extensively on Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) and its Forest Conservation Policy (FCP), which since February 2013 placed a moratorium on any further clearing of natural forest across the company’s 38 supplier concessions in Indonesia and subsequently put an end to the use of natural wood fibers in its paper mills.

In October, we also reported on Greenpeace’s assessment of how APP’s moratorium was holding up. In a comprehensive report published by the organization–who up until the implementation of FCP had been one of APP’s harshest critics–its assessment was generally favorable. In essence, Greenpeace’s position was that while some concerns remain, the company is doing what it said it would do.

Feb. 5 marked the anniversary of APP’s announcement by company Chairman Teguh Ganda Wijaya that it had stopped the destruction of natural forest lands in Indonesia, and in marking this milestone, the company has announced further areas of focus going forward. APP also hosted a debate in Jakarta to discuss their progress to-date; the debate panel involving company officials, the NGOs assisting them in their FCP implementation, and importantly, members from both WWF and the Rainforest Action Network, who remain skeptical critics of APP. More on this later–but, first, a quick recap of what APP has been doing in the last 12 months.

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Greenlots Introduces Open-Standards EV Charging

| Wednesday February 12th, 2014 | 0 Comments
Greenlots _Public charging in the Netherlands

Electric vehicle charging in the Netherlands

Though you’ll continue to read that electric vehicles have been slow to catch on, the fact is, they are catching on, and they will continue to do so. Whether it be sales of pure electric vehicles, or plug-in hybrid vehicles, the growth of electrified vehicles is necessitating the build-out of public charging infrastructure in cities, workplaces and homes.

We are familiar with the tangible parts of such infrastructure — the electric vehicles themselves, and the physical charging stations they plug into. But to make the whole system work, you need an information technology network to connect the hardware together and manage things such as payments and connectivity to the grid, and for charging site owners, the ability to manage the infrastructure deployed.

That’s where companies like Greenlots come in; a San Francisco-based global provider of open standards-based technology solutions for electric vehicle networks. On Feb. 10, the company introduced its SKY Smart Charging system, which is designed to address the needs of the utilities and vehicle-to-grid (V2G) sectors. It’s a pretty esoteric part of the EV world, so I’ll attempt to explain how it fits together and why it’s significant.

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Electric Scooter Share Business ‘Scoot,’ Grows in San Francisco

| Friday February 7th, 2014 | 5 Comments
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Scoot rider in San Francisco

Back in October 2012, we reported on a new urban mobility service operated by Scoot Networks, which at the time had just beta-launched in San Francisco. While similar to the numerous bike-share operations that have sprung up in hundreds of cities around the world, Scoot modified that model; from its website, “Scoots are shared, electric, smartphone-activated motor-scooters you can ride in the city.”

As a membership-based service, riders can use Scoot’s app to locate available scooters from numerous locations around the city, check the state of charge of any given vehicle, and by docking their smartphone, unlock a ride to go about their business.

Sixteen months on, this week I spoke with Michael Keating, Scoot’s CEO, to hear how their business is developing. Things appear to be on the up.

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Ford CEO Alan Mulally Talks Straight with Bloggers at Detroit Auto Show

| Thursday January 16th, 2014 | 0 Comments
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Ford CEO Alan Mulally at the North American Auto Show this week

At the North American International Auto Show’s opening day in Detroit this week, Ford’s affable CEO and President, Alan Mulally, held a Q&A session for invited bloggers — who were given an open forum to ask questions about Ford and the auto industry in general.

The discussion ranged from what distinguishes the company from others to what strategies the company will deploy in order to continue their success in an increasingly competitive industry going forward. Along the way, Mulally was asked about the role of new technologies and how they will shape the future of transportation.

The following is a quick digest highlighting some of the key points from the discussion.

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What Does Mass Adoption of Electric Vehicles Mean for the Grid?

| Wednesday November 27th, 2013 | 6 Comments

PluginThe adoption of plug-in vehicles, both gasoline-electric hybrids as well as full battery electric vehicles, continues to gain pace. At the end of August this year, 59,000 such vehicles had been sold in the USA, surpassing sales of plug-in vehicles for the whole of 2012. This trend will likely continue as manufacturers increasingly roll out new product offerings.

Next year, VW will launch an electric version of the Golf, Mercedes will offer U.S. buyers an electric version of their European B-Class, while BMW will launch the i3, the first of their electric-drive “i” sub-branded vehicles.

Legitimately, the increasing sales volume of electric vehicles has raised concerns regarding the ability of the nation’s utilities to manage the additional load they will bring to bear on the grid. But the Texas-based, Pecan Street Research Institute has been studying the impact of EVs in the most electric vehicle-dense residential area in the country, and has discovered some comforting findings which suggest EVs won’t crash the grid after all.

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PlugInsights Says More Fast Chargers Will Alleviate EV Range Anxiety

| Wednesday November 20th, 2013 | 0 Comments

PlugInsights rangePlugInsights, a plug-in electric vehicle research firm, released their first report last week addressing the experiences, behaviors and opinions of drivers with regard to charging plug-in electric vehicles in the USA. The firm, part of Recargo Inc. – a leading provider of “chargefinder” smart phone apps – crunched the data after surveying over three thousand individuals, 91 percent of whom either own or lease a plug-in electric vehicle, with the remainder of respondents considering a move to an electric car.

The study collected information from geographically dispersed drivers of every commercially available plug-in vehicle available in the U.S. and the results were appropriately weighted to reflect the plug-in vehicle share in the U.S. population.

As PlugInsights’ goal is to identify barriers to broad EV adoption, their inaugural report on vehicle charging goes a long way towards highlighting the pain points plug-in drivers experience while offering solutions to alleviate them. Here are some of the key findings of the study.

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Coca-Cola Issues 2013 GRI Report

| Monday November 18th, 2013 | 0 Comments
Coca Cola

Picture by Author – taken in Ashland Oregon

Earlier this month, Coca-Cola released their 2012/13 sustainability report, the company’s third GRI report, reporting against 35 key performance indicators which they say is the most comprehensive one so far.

The new report outlines Coke’s 2020 Sustainability Commitments, under their “Me, We, World” framework. These respectively represent a focus on enhancing personal well-being, building stronger communities, and protecting the environment.

The chairman of the board, Muhtar Kent, outlines in his letter accompanying the report that, “there are no issues that will more shape or define the 21st century than the global empowerment of women, the management of the world’s precious water resources, and the well-being of the world’s growing population.” Here are some of the key highlights from the report in line with these issues.

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Greenpeace: Positive Progress Report On APP’s Forest Conservation Policy

| Wednesday November 6th, 2013 | 0 Comments
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APP Paper Mill, Perawang, Indonesia

TriplePundit’s Phil Covington has just returned from a trip to Indonesia to look at deforestation issues and the sustainable turnaround of Asia Pulp and Paper, one of the world’s largest paper and pulp companies. Follow along here.

Over the last several weeks, I have written a short series of stories regarding my trip to Indonesia to meet with Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), investigating their Forest Conservation Policy (FCP), which most significantly includes an ongoing commitment to stop natural forest clearing and end the use of natural forest pulp in their Indonesian paper mills.

Rounding off this series, this piece focuses on a timely progress report by Greenpeace, which was issued on October 29th, 2013, addressing APP’s progress against their FCP over the last nine months (since the policy was introduced) as well as detailing remaining concerns and the steps that still need to be taken.

As my trip to Indonesia focused on FCP and included the chance to meet briefly with a representative from Greenpeace, the progress report tracks closely with what I learned on the ground and covers some of the material reported in my previous articles. The following summarizes the key points of the progress report.

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Interview: Asia Pulp and Paper’s Aida Greenbury on APP’s Forest Conservation Policy

| Thursday October 31st, 2013 | 0 Comments
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Wood arriving at APP’s paper mill in Perawang, Indonesia

TriplePundit’s Phil Covington has just returned from a trip to Indonesia to look at deforestation issues and the sustainable turnaround of Asia Pulp and Paper, one of the world’s largest paper and pulp companies. Follow along here.

This is the third piece in this series reporting on my trip to Indonesia, investigating Asia Pulp and Paper’s evolution towards sustainability, and the progress made since they introduced their Forest Conservation Policy (FCP) announced on February 5, 2013. A key outcome of FCP was a moratorium on natural forest clearing effective on January 31, 2013, and the subsequent termination of using natural forest wood products in APP’s paper mills.

The following is an interview with Aida Greenbury, Managing Director, Sustainability & Stakeholder Engagement at APP. It took place after having seen APP’s plantation forests in Riau Province, on Sumatra, and after having met with the NGO organizations (including Greenpeace) that are helping the company to conduct assessments of the forest concession lands which supply the pulp wood to their paper mills.

The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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Photo Essay: Helicopter Flyover of Sumatran Biosphere Reserve and APP Plantations

| Thursday October 24th, 2013 | 6 Comments

TriplePundit’s Phil Covington has just returned from a trip to Indonesia to look at deforestation issues and the sustainable turnaround of Asia Pulp and Paper, one of the world’s largest paper and pulp companies. Follow along here.

3 year old trees on the plantation. APP plants Acacia and Eucalyptus trees in 5 year harvesting cyclesThe following photo essay was created during my visit to Asia Pulp and Paper’s (APP) Perawang paper mill and plantation forests in Riau Province, Sumatra, Indonesia. Most of these photos were taken during a helicopter flyover – the trip circumnavigating APP’s plantation production forests, private farmlands nearby, government reserve land, and APP’s Giam Siak Kecil – Bukit Batu Biosphere Reserve. Together, these distinct areas form a contiguous region of 705,271 hectares.

The Biosphere reserve (178,722 ha) includes a concession area of natural forest belonging to APP, which the company will NOT convert to plantation forest, and which sits between two government wildlife reserves; effectively joining them together. The biosphere, forming a so-called “core area” of natural forest, is surrounded by “buffer zones.” The buffer zones are comprised of forest plantations managed by APP, which are themselves surrounded by “transition areas,” comprised of privately managed agricultural cultivations and human settlements.

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Asia Pulp and Paper’s Forest Clearing Moratorium in Indonesia is Holding

| Wednesday October 16th, 2013 | 1 Comment

TriplePundit’s Phil Covington has just returned from a trip to Indonesia to look at deforestation issues and the sustainable turn-around of Asia Pulp and Paper, one of the world’s largest paper and pulp companies. Follow along here.

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An area of natural forest in Riau Province, Indonesia

Earlier this year, we covered the news that on February 5th 2013, Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), had turned off the bulldozers and ceased clearing natural forest land in Indonesia with immediate effect. At face value, this was good news, because last year, APP’s June 2012 sustainability roadmap detailed the company would only completely cease harvesting natural forest wood for their paper mills by 2015. That APP stopped sourcing logs from the natural forest two years earlier than planned was a big deal, with the announcement coming from the company chairman.

Even so, the reaction to the news was guarded. Greenpeace – who had campaigned aggressively against APP, and downstream, against big-brand-name customers who sourced packaging materials from them – while applauding the move, and recognizing the significance of the announcement, weren’t about to rubber stamp the company as a responsible producer of paper products. Such approval would have to wait until APP could prove they had followed up their announcement with sustained action on the ground.

Last week, eight months and a bit after they made their commitment to end deforestation, I, along with other members of the media, had the opportunity to go down to Indonesia to meet with APP and partner NGOs to see how the moratorium was doing, as well as gain an understanding of the context of the pulp and paper industry in Indonesia (full disclosure, travel and accommodations were covered by APP, opinions are my own). This is the first of a short series on what’s happening at APP in Indonesia, but, first things first – is the deforestation moratorium holding up?

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A Brief History of Cycling in Denmark & Netherlands

| Tuesday October 15th, 2013 | 1 Comment

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Biking is still the preferred method of puppy transport in the Netherlands

Back in 1900, where in the world could you expect to find bicycles making up 20 percent of the transportation mix, with protected, and in some cases, elevated bicycle lanes? In fact, this city’s newspaper once said, “There is no part of the world where cycling is in greater favor…”

Most people would assume the city in question is in bicycle friendly Europe – but in fact, the above describes Los Angeles in 1897. The pleasant and temperate climate of southern California allowed “wheeling,” as cycling was then known, to become a normal and respected means of getting around.

It’s hard to believe that LA was once a cycling haven with dedicated infrastructure. Now, it’s one of the most car-dense places in America, suffering the country’s worst traffic congestion. In 2013, you have to go to Denmark and the Netherlands to find extensive bicycle infrastructure and a biking culture to go with it. So how did they get to that point? What brought cycling front and center in  planning policies?

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