3p Contributor: Sarah Harper

Sarah Harper is a professional writer based in San Francisco, California. Her interests include sustainability, government policy, and international politics. In her free time, Sarah enjoys toying with the idea of holistic health, overanalysis, and plotting world exploration.

Recent Articles

U.S. Energy Secretary Orders Burying of Coal-Produced CO2 – What Are the Implications?

| Thursday October 15th, 2009 | 5 Comments

carbon-recaptureU.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced Monday that a technology for burying coal-produced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions must be ready for deployment by 2017, Reuters reports. This is good news for the environment (given the fact that coal accounts for 40 percent of the world’s carbon emissions) and, hopefully, for the world’s climate change rate (given the fact that the U.S. is one of the world’s two biggest GHG emitters). Yet the news is somewhat perplexing: while Obama has stated a desire for taking proactive measures against climate change, his administration has yet to act definitively on the issue (i.e. by passing comprehensive climate legislation). What does Chu’s proclamation say about the administration’s environmental priorities?

One could argue that Chu’s proclamation is an attempt by the administration to appear proactive on solving environmental problems. (One could argue the same for Obama’s recent declaration that October is National Energy Awareness Month.) After all, as the Copenhagen Climate Conference quickly approaches – and legislators drag their feet on passing a climate bill – the world is watching America….

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HVAC Industry Proposes Regional Efficiency Standards

| Wednesday October 14th, 2009 | 0 Comments

hvac-productsA group of U.S. HVAC (heating, venting and air conditioning) manufacturers signed a deal Tuesday designed to improve regional efficiency standards and building codes throughout the country. The proposed standards are also aimed at balancing the desire for greater state and regional flexibility with the need for a uniform HVAC marketplace, and stabilizing the HVAC marketplace. The participating manufacturers see the standards’ implementation as a way to protect the environment and economy while promoting greater global investment and job security.

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Blue Source, Goldman in “Largest Publicly Announced” Carbon Offset Deal

| Tuesday October 13th, 2009 | 0 Comments


Carbon offset developer Blue Source announced the completion of the “largest publicly announced U.S. offset deal” (his description, reportedly): a $12 million carbon transaction between Blue Source and Goldman Sachs Group. The deal reportedly met Climate Action Reserve (CAR) and Voluntary Carbon Standard quality standards. It also included credits from North Carolina’s Alligator River Forestry project – the first carbon credits to be listed by the CAR outside California.

According to a Reuters report, Blue Source generated the offsets – primarily by convincing North Carolina farmers not to cut down tree stands and by capturing and burning greenhouse gases given off by coal mines and landfills. Goldman then marketed the carbon credits for Blue Source. Then, U.S. investor and carbon commodity owner CE2 Carbon Capital bought the credits. While the companies would not reveal how many credits were sold or at what price they were sold, Blue Source did reveal that each offset type was represented equally (roughly) in the deal.

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Obama’s Nobel Prize – What Effect Could it Have on the Copenhagen Conference?

| Monday October 12th, 2009 | 2 Comments


Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize score could have numerous implications – including potential benefits for the UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen (scheduled for December 7th through 18th). According to a Reuters report, some analysts believe the award could push Obama to attend the Conference, in part because officials will hand over the prize in nearby Oslo on December 10th. Will Obama respond as such, and would his doing so impact the Conference’s success?

Despite the Obama administration’s sluggishness in passing climate legislation in time for the Copenhagen conference, the administration has, at least in intention, improved on the previous administration’s climate actions. Former President George W. Bush dropped efforts to get the Senate to ratify the Kyoto Protocol for 2020 (which all other industrialized nations adopted), while Obama is encouraging the US to assume a bigger role in a new global climate treaty. It’s this attitude that (at least in part) likely qualified him for the Prize and makes his attending the UN Conference a pressure point for many world leaders.

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Streamlining the Smart Grid – the Key to Helping States Meet Renewable Energy Goals?

| Monday October 12th, 2009 | 0 Comments


A recent USA Today report on (many) states’ failure to meet their renewable energy goals highlights a number of issues, one of which being the value of setting standards for a national clean energy infrastructure (“smart grid”). Without such standards, the likelihood of energy inefficiency is greater and the risk of investing in green technology higher, and people are more likely to hold off on greening their operations. The implementation of a “Smart Grid interoperability” plan, which Commerce Secretary Gary Locke introduced September 24th, could make the difference.

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Curbing Climate Change, One Potato Chip at a Time: PepsiCo’s Carbon Footprinting Techniques

| Friday October 9th, 2009 | 2 Comments


Since 2007, PepsiCo has been “doing the world a flavour” in calculating the carbon footprint of its Walkers Crisps, potato chips sold in the UK which carry the Carbon Reduction Label. PepsiCo recently revealed its footprint-calculating methodology, the implications of which could be significant for the mass food production sector and the development of sustainable industry.

According to an environmentalleader.com report, PepsiCo measures the Walkers Crisps’ carbon footprint at each stage of the supply chain, from the growing of raw materials to the shelving of the product and, lastly, the disposal of the Crisps’ packaging. The footprint measuring process entails mapping the supply chain, evaluating the energy consumed (and carbon produced as a result) at each stage, and adding up the carbon for a per-unit emissions calculation.

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Saudi Arabia to Seek Financial Aid if World Reduces Oil Dependence

| Friday October 9th, 2009 | 27 Comments

Mohammad S. Al Sabban - Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia may join the list of countries seeking financial aid over the UN climate deal. According to a Forbes.com report, during the UN’s recent greenhouse gas talks in Bangkok, Saudi Arabia campaigned quietly for financial compensation should a climate deal substantially reduce the world’s use of fossil fuels. The country appears to be motivated not by a need for assistance adapting to the impact of global warming but rather by a desire for compensation for decreased oil profits. Will the Saudis’ stipulation impact the development of an international climate treaty?

The Saudis’ campaign comes despite a recent International Energy Agency (IEA) report, which demonstrated that oil-rich nations would likely still profit with emissions regulations (sufficient for curbing climate change) in place. (According to the report, OPEC revenues would increase by $23 trillion between 2008 and 2030. This would be a fourfold increase in OPEC revenues’ growth rate between 1985 and 2007.)

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Obama Declares October National Energy Awareness Month

| Friday October 9th, 2009 | 0 Comments


President Obama declared October “National Energy Awareness Month” Wednesday, in a statement published on the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) website. Obama underscored the role of energy efficiency and clean energy in the well-being of the nation’s economy and the environment. He also called on the American people to focus on making clean energy choices – the only call to action in the statement. Will creating an energy awareness month have any real effect on sustainable development?

Investing in clean energy, including research and technology development, would have a number of benefits, Obama’s statement said. For example, in addition to protecting the environment, it would increase global competitiveness, decrease oil use, improve national security, and support communities. Clean energy expansion would also demonstrate “American leadership and vision while also making clean energy the profitable kind of energy.” Accordingly, “National Energy Awareness Month” will be a time to recognize these benefits and distinguish contributors to the clean energy movement.

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Does Nuclear Energy Have the Power to Save the Climate Bill?

| Thursday October 8th, 2009 | 3 Comments

nuclear-plants-happyIs nuclear energy the solution to our environmental woes – and can it save the climate bill? Apparently, the answer depends on who you ask. Some promote the benefits of nuclear power (for example, its lack of carbon emissions), while others argue its drawbacks (for example, the issue of storage, and whether nuclear is the most efficient use of clean energy funds). Meanwhile, some believe nuclear power could salvage the energy bill; the Senate is already considering including nuclear in new climate legislation. A peek into the blogosphere reveals the multifaceted nature of the nuclear power issue.

A treehugger.com article discusses the (perceived) benefits and downsides of investing in nuclear power versus investing in energy efficiency, in the opinions of RMI chairman Amory Lovins, University of Chicago’s Robert Rosner, and PG&E’s Peter Darbee. The benefits? Nuclear is a relatively cheap electricity source, and, Rosner emphasizes, it already accounts for 50 percent the U.S.’s energy sourcing (versus less than 2 percent for wind and solar combined). The drawbacks? There are more efficient ways to conserve power (for example, wind energy or co-generation), Lovins says, and buying new nuclear power results in more carbon release than implementing efficiency measures. Moreover, nuclear power will likely develop too slowly to have a timely impact.

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John Mackey, “Whole Foolishness”, and a Microcosm of the Green Movement

| Thursday October 8th, 2009 | 1 Comment


When it comes to healthcare, the adage “opinions are like behinds: everyone has one” is an understatement. Whole Foods CEO John Mackey is no exception. His two cents on the matter have garnered a lot of attention recently: first, through his op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), and, second, through a subsequent damage-control-type interview (also with the WSJ). What can we glean from the situation as it pertains to sustainable business?

Mackey’s op-ed, entitled “The Whole Foods Alternative to ObamaCare”, delineates smaller-government, decreased-national-deficit solutions to the nation’s healthcare woes. It lists eight reforms that would, it says, lower everyone’s healthcare costs. These solutions include equalizing tax laws for employer-provided and individually-owned insurance, allowing intra-state competition among insurance companies, mandating cost transparency to consumers, reforming Medicare, and promoting charitable donations for lower-income individuals.

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Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm’s Uphill Battle for Green Jobs

| Thursday October 8th, 2009 | 1 Comment

jennifer-GranholmMichigan, one of the nation’s manufacturing and auto industry hubs, was among the states hardest hit by carmakers’ decline. Its governor, Jennifer M. Granholm, now faces the daunting task of rebuilding the state’s job market. The Washington Post reports on Granholm’s approach to the task, which includes turning to green industries to provide jobs. Apparently, the battle has been an uphill one.

Since Granholm took office in 2003, she has taken a number of measures to remake Michigan – diversifying the state’s economy, creating jobs, and building the green job market among them. She has offered tax credits, loans, and other incentives to auto, wind, solar, and other industries, in order to convince them to bring jobs to Michigan. She is also building electric vehicle and car battery programs that could generate as many as 40,000 more jobs by 2020. So far, Granholm has created 163,000 positions, approximately 10,800 of which came from overseas companies.

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Obama Aide Says Passage of Climate Bill Before Copenhagen Is Unlikely

| Wednesday October 7th, 2009 | 1 Comment

waxman-climatePresident Obama’s aide and top climate and energy official, Carol Browner, confirmed Friday what many already feared: there is virtually no chance Congress will have a climate bill ready in time for the UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen in December. Browner’s statement was the administration’s first definitive statement regarding passage of a climate and energy bill (or lack thereof). Delaying the bill will likely have a number of negative implications for the Copenhagen conference.

According to a report by the New York Times, in Browner’s words, the Obama administration would “like to be through the process,” but it’s “not going to happen.” However, the Senate may be able to complete its hearings on the bill before the Conference’s opening talks on December 7th. The administration also announced plans last week for new rules regulating greenhouse gases from large factories. Both gestures are intended to signal the US’s commitment to cutting CO2 emissions – an indication that could be crucial to the Conference’s success.

Several factors have contributed to the climate bill delay, including the healthcare debate, the process by which legislation is introduced and amended prior to passage, and what some would call procrastination. (The climate bill was introduced in the Senate only Wednesday – three months after the House passed its version of the bill.)

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Facebook, “Gross National Happiness,” and… Sustainable Business?

| Wednesday October 7th, 2009 | 3 Comments


Is it possible to establish the overall mood of a nation? Apparently it is–if you’re Facebook (FB). The popular social networking site recently developed a new app by which it aims to determine its users’ “gross national happiness.” By searching public and semi-public FB forums for words and phrases deemed “happy,” “sad,” or “indifferent” by FB engineers, the app charts the overriding sentiments of its 300-million-a-day users. Could FB’s findings be relevant to a study on green business growth?

The app’s results, reported in a fastcompany.com blog entry, are fascinating. Apparently, Americans’ happiness levels are somewhat predictable: they sink on Mondays, rise slowly through the workweek, peak on weekend days (and holidays – especially Thanksgiving), and drop again on Monday. This year, there was a sudden drop in late June, presumably coincident with the death of Michael Jackson.

(Image from NewScientist.com)

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Your Pure Honey – Startup Uses Shares in Beehives to Protect Native Tree Populations

| Saturday October 3rd, 2009 | 0 Comments


New Zealand-based startup Your Pure Honey is putting the connection between consumer investment and resource preservation to the test. The organization allows consumers to purchase a share (or more) of a beehive in exchange for the Manuka honey the hive produces. The exchange also helps protect Manuka forests in the region while providing income for local farmers. Touted a “crowdfunded sustainable forest,” the project is, in many ways, a glimpse into the multiple options for creating a greater degree of sustainability in agriculture and trade in the global marketplace.

According to a report by springwise.com, the Your Pure Honey process is simple. Hive purchasers may choose from two options: a basic share (which costs about 285 USD per season and provides 2kg of raw honey) or an entire colony (which costs about $2,500 and provides 20 kg of honey). Delivery is included in the costs. Meanwhile, Your Pure Honey protects New Zealand’s Manuka forests by renting farmland (at one hectare [2.5 acres] per hive), thereby providing work for farmers while keeping the forests intact. (Manuka trees are often cut down to provide extra farming land.) Each beehive provides enough funds to sustain five forest acres.

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California Environment Initiatives Garner International Interest

| Saturday October 3rd, 2009 | 0 Comments


Several dozen local officials and environmental groups from forest-rich nations (including Brazil and Mexico) gathered this week at Schwarzenegger’s Global Climate Summit, which was sponsored for the first time by the U.N. These leaders sought, in part, to determine ways to provide carbon credits to (California) companies willing to pay for industrial emissions offsets. By doing so, the leaders would cash in on California’s expertise, technology, and carbon trading market (to be launched in 2012).

The Los Angeles Times reports that, according to California Environmental Protection Agency Secretary Linda Adams, California – the most energy-efficient state in the nation – wants to sell its technology to the nations attending the Summit. While California has yet to officially confirm a cap-and-trade system, such a system could provide millions of dollars for several natural-resource-rich communities, including those in Mexico, Brazil, Indonesia, and Tanzania.

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