Obama Calls for End of Oil Subsidies in 2011 Budget

Shannon Arvizu | Thursday February 4th, 2010 | 6 Comments

Sun Sets for Oil Subsidies?

In Obama’s 2011 FY budget proposal sent to Congress this week, the administration calls for eliminating more than $2.7 billion in tax subsidies for oil, coal and gas industries. As a result, more than $38.8 billion dollars in tax revenue could be generated for the federal government over the course of the next ten years.

The budget proposal also cuts funding provided through the Department of Energy for expensive petroleum exploration, including the Ultra-Deepwater exploration program (saving $50 million) and expansion of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (saving $71 million).

With this proposal, Obama is sending a loud and clear message that the nation is moving towards a clean energy future. Overall, the budget provides over $28 billion for the DOE in 2011, a 7% increase over this year’s budget estimates. Much of this increase is for the support of renewable energy generation and advanced vehicle technologies.

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KPMG: Looking back at Copenhagen

| Thursday February 4th, 2010 | 0 Comments

A quick post today: KPMG has been no stranger to climate change issues and has offered some interesting commentary in the past, particularly during the COP15 conference in December.

The following is a great COP15 wrap up conversation I though was worth sharing. It features Alan Buckle, KPMG’s Global Head of Advisory, and Barend van Bergen, associate partner with KPMG in the Netherlands. Enjoy….

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Finally, a Use for Those TPS Reports: Toilet Paper

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Thursday February 4th, 2010 | 4 Comments

Call it Cradle-to-Crapper. An enterprising Japanese firm called Oriental has developed a machine that will divert the waste paper in your office and convert it into toilet paper. Right there, on the spot. Feed about 40 sheets of paper into one end of the machine and in about 30 minutes, a roll of toilet paper emerges from the other end.

Sure, the carbon footprints linked to toilet paper purchases might not account for entire chapters of corporate social responsibility reports. But this contraption–which Oriental has inexplicably named the White Goat–is perhaps symbolic of the diffusion of sustainable thinking into the most remote corners of workplace design. Or, depending on how much water and electricity the White Goat eats each day, it could be symbolic of sustainable thinking gone wrong.

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The Greening of CFOs: Any Leading Examples?

Bill Roth | Wednesday February 3rd, 2010 | 8 Comments

On January 27, 2010 the ground moved underneath our CFOs when the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) instructed publicly held companies to “…consider the effects of global warming and efforts to curb climate change when disclosing business risks to investors.” Gina-Marie Cheeseman posted an excellent article entitled “SEC Issues Guidance On Climate Change Risk Disclosure” on Triple Pundit on January 28 that provides more details about this ruling.

This article surfaces some of the issues now confronting CFOs.

Early in my energy industry career, one of the “pop questions” often asked of junior staff in the finance department was: “Who is most important: the investor, the customer or our associates?” In finance, the answer is always the investor, according to the narrow interpretation of incorporation law. Otherwise, one would have violated the concept of “fiduciary responsibility.”

The SEC guidance for reporting climate change risks is a milestone event in the definition of fiduciary reporting for a CFO. This “guidance” expands a CFO’s disclosure requirements when reporting financial results in documents like an annual report, 10K, 10Q and 8K, where a failure to adequately discuss or reveal risk could expose a company to investor lawsuit and regulatory action. One significant ramification of this SEC action is that CFOs will now need to take the initiative in identifying and reporting the risks that climate change may have upon their company’s investors. This is a sea change in CFO fiduciary responsibility.

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Bikes Go on the Juice: The Electric Bicycle Boom

Bill DiBenedetto | Wednesday February 3rd, 2010 | 14 Comments

Bicycles are great for the environment, for one’s health and for efficient urban travel. Many cities are bicycle-friendly, some more than others. But if you live in one with major hills, such as San Francisco or Seattle, and you happen to be a little older, perhaps, or simply not quite in Tour de France shape, then an electric-bike is the way to go.

Business is booming for several reasons: They are way more affordable than EV cars and spiffy new and lighter designs are multiplying worldwide.

A recent New York Times article notes that David Chiu, president of the San Francisco board of supervisors uses one to get to meetings without having to change clothes upon arrival.

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For a Crash Course in Sustainable Business, What Are the “Must Read” Books?

Scott Cooney | Wednesday February 3rd, 2010 | 60 Comments

The sustainable economy is perhaps the fastest growing, fastest changing segment of the overall economy.  It’s hard to keep up with all the new books, movies, and websites that cover sustainable food, clean tech, renewable energy, alternative transportation, Socially Responsible Investing, ecotourism, green building, holistic education, and all the other facets of the sustainable economy–even for those of us who live and breathe this stuff.

But what about those people who are new to the field, and feel completely overwhelmed by it all?  They’re not ready for a green MBA from Presidio or Dominican, but they are curious, interested, and part of that broader populace we need to reach that has open minds and are terrific potential converts to sustainable businesspeople and consumers….if only they could get, well, a crash-course in sustainable business. 

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New Leaf Paper Launches Online Eco Audit Calculator

| Wednesday February 3rd, 2010 | 3 Comments

According to the Environmental Paper Network, choices about paper use and selection are the most significant decisions one can make to impact the planet. Printing double-sided, or, better yet, not printing at all, can hugely reduce environmental footprint. But until the world decides to go 100 percent digital, paper is a necessity. When it comes to creating paper with the least impact on the environment, New Leaf Paper is leading the pack.

Continuing in its tradition of pioneering the sustainable paper industry, New Leaf has launched an online Eco Audit calculator. This tool helps New Leaf customers and their clients share the environmental benefits of using post-consumer recycled paper instead of virgin paper. New Leaf has offered this tool offline for the last ten years, providing print-ready, customized Eco Audit for their customers. While New Leaf Paper has more than eight million Eco Audits in circulation, this is the first time that customers have the online tools for their own use.

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The Skinny On Whole Foods’ Anti-Fat Policy

| Tuesday February 2nd, 2010 | 22 Comments

Some people just don’t like carrots, but nobody likes a stick.  This is what John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods and notorious health care blow hard, doesn’t seem to get.  In an attempt to reduce the cost of health care for its employees, Whole Foods created a new policy to offer deeper discounts on food to employees that can squeeze into the company’s [narrow] definition of health. The “Team Member Healthy Discount Incentive” is a voluntary program that evaluates the health of employees based on Body Mass Index (BMI), blood pressure, cholesterol, and nicotine-use.  Based on these specific criteria, employees can qualify for an additional 2-10% discount on top of the 20% discount all employees already receive.

But instead of acting as an incentive, the program may have the exact opposite effect and act more like a punishment for larger-bodied employees who already have to deal with living in a society whose last acceptable “–ism” is hating on fat people.  The issue here is not about companies encouraging the well-being of their employees.  The issue here is that a large company is adopting a prescriptive definition of what health means for all people and bodies, and  imposing that criteria upon its employees.

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Focus on Product Stewardship Shifts Waste Disposal Responsibility to Manufacturers

| Tuesday February 2nd, 2010 | 3 Comments

Most manufacturers of products that contain hazardous substances, like toxic mercury, cadmium, nickel, arsenic and lead, don’t think much about the end of their products life cycle. The onus to properly dispose of many banned substances is predominantly on the consumer. The problem with this scenario is that people still dispose of batteries, fluorescent lights, needles, cell phones, radios, computers and even televisions, through regular waste streams. In California, for example, citizens who throw batteries or CFL lights in the trash are creating a major headache for the waste management authority. Local governments frustrated with the burden, and the financial repercussions that result from it, are finally taking a stand and pushing back.

During the past year lawmakers in Maine, California, Minnesota and Oregon have proposed ways to start shifting the burden of waste disposal from the public to the private sector. The idea centers around “product stewardship” which means that manufacturers themselves would be required to pay for collecting, recycling and disposing of designated products after their consumers are through with them.

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Will Consumers Get Smart with Smart Meters?

RP Siegel | Tuesday February 2nd, 2010 | 2 Comments

Smart metering, a key element of the so-called Smart Grid, has been touted as a great bright hope that will enable residential electric customers to cut their usage, thereby reducing greenhouse gases as well as their monthly bills. By providing immediate feedback to customers as to how much power they are using, what their annual bill is projected to be and how their usage compares to that of their neighbors, it is hoped that the meters will motivate ratepayers to adjust their behavior and their electronics so as to reduce overall load on the system.

“In a sense, this program is a kind of keeping up with the Joneses strategy for energy efficiency,” says Anne Pramaggiore, president and COO of Commonwealth Edison who just completed a pilot program in which 50,000 customers were given monthly online feedback. The program, which the Illinois company plans to expand, led to a 2 percent reduction in energy use.

But others are skeptical that simply providing more information will result in customers making different choices and reducing their demand for electrons.  Ted Schultz, vice president of marketing and energy efficiency for Duke Energy, told the Chicago Tribune that the so-called “smart grid” approach has been lauded as a way to give consumers more freedom and control over their energy use, but in Ohio, where the devices are being tested incrementally, customers aren’t looking to micro-manage their energy consumption. They want to see their bill, but that’s about it.

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Farming Internships: Vital or Illegal? The Answer is Both.

3p Contributor | Tuesday February 2nd, 2010 | 9 Comments

This is the  9th post in a series on the business of sustainable agriculture by the folks at Bon Appétit Management Company, a company that provides café and catering services to corporations, colleges and universities. To read the earlier posts, click here.

By Dayna Burtness

I never knew that I had such a deep desire to break the law.

In fact, it’s my dream. Sometime in the next couple of years, I want to start the Twin Cities’ first rooftop farm.  Between rows of raised beds full of heirloom tomatoes and herbs, I want to watch my farm interns learn the joys of getting their hands dirty and planting seeds.  I want school kids to listen to the buzz of my rooftop beehives and help out by picking their own cucumbers.  I want retired engineers to collaborate with me to design a hydroponics system that makes use of all the vertical space and sunshine of a warm, south-facing wall.

Rather, I wanted to do all these things right up until I attended workshop at the EcoFarm Conference last week in California entitled “Are Internships Illegal?”  I was shocked to learn that the answer is yes, most of the time, as are volunteers on for-profit farms.  

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California Adopts First Statewide Green Building Codes

| Monday February 1st, 2010 | 0 Comments

The fight against climate change must in some way involve changes in the energy performance of buildings. Addressing the basic rules that govern how buildings are designed and constructed is an important first step in the process. These basic rules, referred to more commonly as building codes, are updated by a group called the International Code Council (ICC). The ICC is currently at work on updates to model energy codes for release in 2012 and three national organizations, New Buildings Institute (NBI), the American Institute of Architects (AIA), and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), have jointly proposed comprehensive changes that would result in commercial buildings that are up to 30 percent more efficient than those built to today’s standards.

On January 12, 2010, California approved the most stringent, eco-friendly statewide building code in the United States. The new building code standard called “CALGreen” will take effect next January and lays out specific constraints for newly constructed buildings. The code was supported by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and the state Chamber of Commerce, as well as many builders and realtors, who argued it would only slightly increase initial construction costs. Private groups with green rating programs, including the U.S. Green Building Council, argued that it could lead to myriad standards and confusion.

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Deloitte: Best Practices for Going Green

| Monday February 1st, 2010 | 0 Comments

What do you think of when you hear Deloitte?

You might think of a professional services firm or Big Four auditor. Today, the company has also put a big green stake in the ground, both looking internally to green its operations and as an offering in its consulting practice.

Two aspects of this work are worth noting: Deloitte’s internal green team, working to engage employees in sustainability, and its Green Sync™ tool.

I had the chance to have an e-mail exchange with Thomas Dekar, vice chairman of Deloitte LLP, regional managing principal of the North Central Region and corporate responsibility officer for the Deloitte U.S. Firms. He shed some light on the origins of Deloitte’s programs and offerings.

Read on to learn about Deloitte’s best green business practices for engaging employees in sustainability.

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Clean Energy Gets the Celebrity Treatment

| Monday February 1st, 2010 | 2 Comments

hollywood & green
Clean energy has been a highly charged issue in legislation, but with Obama’s recent pledge to reduce CO2 emissions 28 percent by 2020, The National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) Action Fund has stepped up with a celebrity campaign to educate consumers about the issue and urge them to email their Senators to pass the Clean Energy Jobs & American Power Act.

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Holy Job Creation: Bring on High Speed Rail

| Monday February 1st, 2010 | 3 Comments

Say what you will about the stimulus package and government spending in general, there are some things that work well with government investment, and massive infrastructure projects are high on that list. Like Eisenhower in the 1950s, who kicked off the interstate highway system, last week’s (albeit 25 years late) investment of $8 billion in high speed rail will usher in a new era of efficient transportation, economic development, and a huge number of jobs.

The United States’ dependence on cars for transportation (face it, in much of the ex-urban US you would literally starve to death without a car) costs the economy billions and billions of dollars every year in lost productivity and unneeded spending. NBC News says the average American loses an entire work week annually due to congestion, adding up to $78 billion in lost productivity and 3 billion wasted gallons of gas.

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