By Nick Hodge
Should utilities be required to use the best available technology in order to minimize harm to the nation’s waterways?
Most people with half a brain would answer that question affirmatively. But apparently the upper reaches of our judicial system don’t fall into that category.
So today the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case that a five-year-old could decide in seconds.
It centers around the impact utilities have on waterways near power plants that use billions of gallons of water each and every day–all of it sucked up from our rivers and lakes.
You see, power plants–coal-fired, natural gas, and nuclear–all use incredible amounts of water for cooling. The total comes to more than 214 BILLION gallons of water each day, or tens of trillions of gallons every year.
And here’s what makes the correct decision here patently obvious: the cooling process kills every living organism in the water–fish, larvae, eggs, microorganisms–all of it.
Now, this court case isn’t going to have any financial implications for us as investors; I’ll get to some water-related investment ideas in a few moments.
First, let me just outline the facts of this case so we can all have a good chuckle, and reminisce about the Bush decision of yore, which will shortly be no more.
By Nick Hodge
A Small Organic Tea Company With Big Environmental Plans: Ocean of Tea Pours Sustainability By the Cup Full
There’s been a lot of chatter about green and sustainable business lately with enterprise and high profile corporations adding eco-friendly activities to their portfolio in an attempt to demonstrate their focus on the environment. But with bureaucracy and corporate red tape, those efforts typically become ancillary to the company’s overall strategic imperatives, leaving a bulk of the responsibility to rest squarely on the shoulders of conscious entrepreneurs committed to doing their part in sustaining our planet.
For Terry Godier, Co-Founding Partner at Ocean of Tea, a high quality purveyor of eco-friendly tea, this is not only a responsibility that he happily accepts, but one that he bears proudly as he engineers his start up to save the world.
Reducing Emissions through Deforestation and Forest Degradation– a.k.a. REDD– is a focal point of this week¬¥s UNFCC COP 14 global climate change negotiations in Poznan.
A fundamental question arises given the make-up of the government delegations who will be the ultimate decision makers as to what, if any form, a new global compact on climate change will eventually take: is any political body and process– even one as broad-based as the UNFCCC’s Conference of Parties to the Kyoto Protocol-, open, inclusive and motivated enough to recognize and represent the interests of the indigenous forest peoples around the world? Traditionally run over by the wheels of “progress” and those motivated primarily by the narrow interests of maximizing profits and minimizing costs, will these people ever be included, and viewed as equals, in high-level political and commercial negotiations?
Forestry researchers and policy wonks have been putting forth various and numerous methods to inform and guide the UNFCC as it seeks to develop the means and mechanisms to reduce deforestation and forest degradation. None address the most fundamental issue, however, asserts ForestAction Nepal and the Nepal Federation of Community Forest Users.
The critical issue, according to these organizations, is not “how to implement” REDD, but “who is it that we are rewarding through REDD and carbon financing?”
As much as we might like to think that everyone would voluntarily reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, regulations are the only way to ensure that GHG emissions are reduced at the rate needed to mitigate catastrophic climate change. Regardless of the notice given, any such legislation will come as a shock to those companies most affected. This is indeed the case currently for many in the agricultural industry, as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has recently announced a proposal to regulate GHGs under the Clean Air Act. This week, ClimatePULSE will take a look at this potential piece of GHG legislation and the importance of turning these regulatory risks into opportunities.Click to continue reading »
Alternative energy schemes are going to be making important inroads around the globe. But the social implications of this should not be underestimated. A recent study by the Energy Savings Trust in the UK outlines how the scenario is likely to unfold in Britain.
The study, entitled Power in Numbers, underscores the vast untapped potential of schemes that are organized at local and community level. “Today energy generated by communities could produce about 13% of all household needs. With the right policies in place this potential could rise to 54%,” according to the report.
When Temple Nightclub and Zen Compound founder Paul Hemming first conceived of his idea for a nightclub and cultural venue in San Francisco, he immediately sought to create an established that would pursue the triple bottom line and his idea of the world as “one living organism and one family”.
Born of a Mormon father and Buddhist mother, Hemming was from an early age familiar with the concept of "East meets West" and combines this sensibility to his efforts in creating a nightclub built around the idea of sustainability.
I recently had an opportunity to talk with Mike Zuckerman, Temple Nightclub and Zen Compound’s director of sustainability since 2006. While I would expect some club owners will take exception, Mike counts Temple as one of three sustainable nightclubs in the world, the other two being Club4Climate in London (which apparently had a bit of a controversy this summer with Friends of the Earth) and the appropriately named Watt in Rotterdam. Watt bills itself as the “first” sustainable nightclub, opening just earlier this year, and E Magazine mentions other clubs around the U.S. as “eco-friendly, but Zuckerman says that Temple (which Hemming reincarnated from the old DV8 and Caribbean Zone clubs) isn’t really trying to compete for eco-marketing rights. He’s more interested in building awareness and community, both locally, regionally, and globally.
As the old saying goes: think globally, act locally.Click to continue reading »
The Wharton Energy Conference has become one of the top energy events for MBA’s, bringing together energy industry leaders, investors, entrepreneurs, government officials, journalists, academics and students for a day of learning and networking. This year’s conference incorporated a number of innovative events that broke the monotony of traditional conferences, delivering beyond expectations.Click to continue reading »
The two-week COP14 climate talks which start today in Poznan Poland, are the halfway mark in a two year negotiation effort by no less than 190 countries on a replacement for the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.
The new concept is way more ambitious than Kyoto which was signed by only 37 industrialized countries who committed to reducing carbon emissions to below 1990 levels by an average 5% by 2012. China, which had been hesitant about some of the issues on the table made a u-turn in its policy last December when it agreed to commit to a target in emissions reductions – on condition that it wouldn’t be bound to the same limits as industrial countries, and only if the rich world assists the poor countries in transitioning to cleaner production methods.
The Poznan conference will begin reviewing ideas on how to help poor nations in their efforts to combat climate change. A major part of this will be ideas as to how to finance the technological transfer that’s needed and what kind of targets are fair. Another focus point will be how to incentivize countries to successfully cut back on deforestation. Efforts will be made to agree to a time table for all these issues and achieve agreement by December next year.
As many as 9,000 participants are expected to attend the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s 14th Conference of Parties to the Kyoto Protocol in Poznan starting tomorrow, including an official US delegation led by Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs Dr. Paula Dobriansky. Senator John Kerry (D-MA) will lead a Senate delegation. Members of President-elect Obama’s transition team are also expected to attend.
The climate change talks in Poznan mark the critical halfway point between the 2007 meeting in Bali in which a draft blueprint of a global action plan was set and next year’s COP meeting in Copenhagen, which is expected to result in the establishment of a global climate agreement to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.
Kerry warned that although the US is now in a position to play a leading role in global climate change negotiations, Congress and the incoming Obama administration’s ability to offer greenhouse gas emission reduction incentives to rapidly industrializing countries such as China and India would be limited by the economic crisis. “The bottom line is we are not going to be in the position we were two years ago in the short term to do as much technology transfer or economic assistance in terms of transitional issues that might have led other countries to participate,” Kerry was quoted as saying in a news report.
Investment managers at cleantech funds are looking at the world with totally new eyes these days – the financial crisis, which has ravaged stock prices and wiped out major financial institutions, offers buying opportunities that are unprecedented. Now’s the best time to snap up bargains, they say.
The hard numbers prove this ain’t illogical. Investment in the US clean tech sector rose 55% to more than $2.4 billion over the past twelve months. One of the main drivers of this could be the US government’s $700 billion Housing and Recovery Act stimulus package. The tax concessions boosted wind energy, geothermal and biomass projects and are expected to have a long lasting effect on the capital markets.
Apologies for the delay in delivering this weekly wrap up! I am still recovering from my Tryptophan haze.
This was a big week in sustainable business news! Read on for the biggest stories:
Five Reasons You Should Consider Generating Your Own Green Energy While 3P’s own Ryan Mickle doesn’t much like the idea at least as compared with other solutions for combating climate change, there are some compelling reasons for going off the grid, not the least of which is turning on every light in the house and blasting Blondie when the power goes off on your block, just to stick it to your neighbors who refuse to compost.
Electric Car Network on the Fast Track in San Francisco San Francisco joins the fine company of Israel and Denmark as one of Better Place’s inaugural networks for electric cars. A couple of us from 3P were at a presentation by Better Place’s founder last week, and they’ve got it all figured out! Plug-in parking spaces at home, work, and shopping centers, battery exchange stations, and the cars are pretty cute to boot. I’m working on getting Nick to buy us one, for business use *only* of course. Click on lots of pages, people!
LA wants a Seat at the Green Team Table LA has no shortage of sunshine, and Mayor Villaraigosa made a commitment last week to put it to better use than tanning aspiring actresses: he committed the city to reaching 10% solar by 2020. That is a fine, fine commitment, Mayor! Keep it up and we’ll work on getting you a fancy electric car network too.
Can Wind Farms Change the Weather? Ecogeek has given me another reason for eco-panic insomnia. This gives the butterfly effect a whole new meaning (with one turn of the windmill…). Luckily it looks like the windfarm would have to stretch from Texas to Canada to have an impact. That doesn’t mean this isn’t fodder for another eco thriller B movie.
Walmart Goes Big with Two Newspopping Stories
First they pledge to buy 226 million kilowatt-hours of renewable power each year from a wind farm that’s set to be up and running by April 2009 (avoiding the production of a staggering 139,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions annually).
Then CEO Lee Scott, champion of the superpower’s green initiatives, resigns. Will this mean the end of the green happy face?
Corn Based Plastic Sales Skyrocket Sales have jumped 450% in the most recent period recorded. Now you know where to put that money you yanked out of the stock market. Just don’t forget to compost your bio-plastics! (Otherwise they offgas methane in the landfill and contribute to global warming.) Just call me the eco-Debbie Downer.
A Cap and Trade Thanksgiving This is a great piece about the compromises inherent in any 100 mile meal undertaking. I love me some carbon humor.3P had its own share of Thanksgiving coverage: sustainable turkey farming and food economics in a fuel based economy.
The German solar panel company SolarWorld has installed solar panels on the roofs of the Vatican. The Pope switched to the system earlier this week and is expected to announce drastic plans to expand on the project. The solar panels are placed on top of the massive roof of the Vatican’s Nervi Hall, where the pope receives general audiences.
A total of 2,400 photovoltaic panels have been attached to this 5,000 square meter roof. They are not noticeable from the ground below and can provide all of the energy for the hall and a few other buildings adjacent to it. Exact output is 300 kilowatt hours (kWh) annually.
A great opportunity for the US to break free of the foreign oil trap presents itself before the incoming Obama administration and the US Congress, according to the Set America Free Coalition, a non-profit organization dedicated to breaking America’s dependence on foreign oil: any use of public finance to bail out the “Big 3″ automakers should include establishing an Open Fuel Standard so that most new cars sold in the US will run on a variety of liquid fuels.
The Detroit-based automakers have conveniently shunted aside any real move towards making flex-fuel vehicles though they have said they are willing to commit to make 50% of new cars sold in the US fuel flexible by 2012. Indicative of a glaring lack of responsiveness, or sense of social and environmental responsibility, they have zealously maintained this stance despite the fact it costs only around $100 per vehicle for them to do so, according to Set America Free research.
The “Big 3″ auto executives are shuttling back and forth between their monolithic Detroit headquarters and Washington D.C., again crying wolf to lawmakers in order to preserve their own bacon. The present political-economic drama is shaping up as yet another instance of throwing good money after bad, in the form of public funds and financing no less, something that has become the norm in the US. Lawmakers can change all this by requiring the automakers to do what they’ve chosen not to do for decades.
Set America Free is behind a push on Capitol Hill to pass the Open Fuel Standard Act (Senate bill S.3303; House bill H.R. 6559), a piece of legislation that would catalyze the transition to flex-fuel vehicles and give the driving public their choice of liquid fuels. Enacting this legislation would be beneficial in a number of important respects: it would set us squarely down the path towards cutting the cord on our reliance on oil, imported oil in particular, thereby enhancing energy and national security, promote the development and use of cleaner, less polluting and environmentally damaging biofuels, it would be complementary and smooth the transition to hybrid electric vehicles, and it could lead to a much reduced military presence and sacrifice of life in oil-rich, geopolitical hot zones.
Moreover, it would save consumers money. The price at the pump of methanol, including taxes, distribution and mark-up, comes in at $2.03 per gasoline equivalent gallon, according to Set America Free.
Petroleum Development Oman, the state owned oil company of Oman (partly controlled by Shell), is in discussions with geologists who claim they’ve found a type of rock that can be used to soak up huge quantities of carbon dioxide.
The rock, known as peridotite, is layered just under the surface of a desert in Oman. The peridotite was found to react chemically with CO2, forming solid minerals. What’s more, it absorbs hot water infused with a concentration of CO2 that engineers can drill deep into it.
Theoretically, the peridotite in Oman alone could take in 4 billion tons of atmospheric carbon a year and transform it into marble and limestone. Total global annual carbon emitted is around 30 billion tons.
In most places in the world, peridotite usually resides some 20 kilometers or more below the earth’s surface. But in Oman, it’s been pushed upwards due to geologic activity making it far more accessible.
The U.S. healthcare system is in sorry shape. The Commonwealth Fund Commission gave the U.S. healthcare system a score of 65 (out of 100) when compared to other industrialized countries. The overall performance of the healthcare system did not improve from 2006 to 2008, and access to healthcare decreased. The efficiency of the healthcare system continued to be low.
The U.S. spends twice the amount per capita on healthcare that other industrialized countries do, but ranks last among 19 industrialized countries. It ranked 15th last year. The rate of uninsured adults increased from 35 percent in 2003 to 42 percent in 2007. According to the Commonwealth Fund Commission, “We are headed toward $1 of every $5 of national income going toward health care.”