Leading battery storage technology developers and emerging market players, including Elon Musk’s SolarCity and Tesla, are investing billions of dollars to improve the performance and lower the costs of manufacturing lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries. Along the way, they are promoting Li-ion battery storage as a cleaner, more efficient, sustainable and significantly less costly solution across a wide range of applications, from electric vehicles, homes and buildings on up to grid-scale energy storage and stabilization.
But Li-ion isn’t the only game in town when it comes to emerging advanced battery and energy storage technologies. And there are those who believe proponents are stretching their case too far in touting the advantages of Li-ion battery storage across such a broad range of applications.
Developers of flow batteries, for instance, say utilities and other large end-users would be ill-served by acquiring Li-ion battery storage, except for comparatively narrow and strictly defined cases. A developer of vanadium-flow battery storage systems, Imergy Power Systems, is taking its case to the market.
A coalition of environmental groups and farmers is trying to stay the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s October 2014 decision to approve Enlist Duo, a powerful new herbicide.
Enlist Duo is a combination of 2,4-D and glyphosate, and it’s approved to be used on genetically modified (GMO) crops in six Midwestern states. Enlist Duo approval is expected to expand to 10 other states.
The coalition argues that the EPA violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by not consulting with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service about the impact of Enlist Duo on two endangered species in those six Midwestern states, the whooping crane and the Indiana bat.
The whooping crane is one of the world’s most endangered animals. In 2006, there were only about 338 whooping cranes in the wild. The EPA admitted that during the whooping crane’s migration the birds “will stop to eat and may consume arthropod prey” that may have been exposed to Enlist Duo and that exposure is toxic to them. The Indiana bat could suffer reproductive damage from Enlist Duo exposure. Scientists cite pesticide contamination of their food supply as one of the reasons for their decline.
If you’re a successful entrepreneur, you’ve probably felt a pull toward philanthropy. According to a 2010 study, 89 percent of entrepreneurs donate money to charitable causes; 70 percent donate their time; and 61 percent believe they are more inclined to give to charity because they are entrepreneurs.
There’s no doubt philanthropy and entrepreneurship go hand in hand. An entrepreneur’s drive to pursue a dream is the same force that leads to giving back. By helping others, entrepreneurs generate good feelings that help them overcome daily struggles, and they get a sense of personal fulfillment.
But even if you feel compelled to give back, you might not know the best way to help. Or, if you currently donate your money or your time, you probably worry you’re not doing enough. After all, the world is a big place with a host of problems that need attention.
When the Aluminaire House went on display in 1931, it started a long path from case study into a phenomenon that helped launch a new architectural movement in the United States. For 10 days during the Architectural and Allied Arts Exposition in New York City, 100,000 people filed through the beaux-arts Grand Central Palace to view what was inside: a stark contrast, what critics saw as an unprecedented and innovative 22 x 28 feet aluminum-and-glass structure. Architecture historians have generally recognized this structure for being the first all-metal modular home built in the U.S. After eighty years, during which it has moved, fallen into disrepair and then almost demolished, the Aluminaire House will soon find a new home in Palm Springs, the epicenter of mid-century modern architecture and design.
For its fans in the architecture and design world, the Aluminaire House is vindication for the International School of architecture, a movement that reached its peak in the 1960s. During the following decades this school of building design largely fell out of favor–then ridicule and for many buildings, demolition–but in the last decade has become vaunted again for its historical impact, practicality and minimalist aesthetic. But this house is also important because it was ahead of its time for its use of prefabricated, sustainable and lightweight materials as well as its ease of construction—the norm within today’s increased focus on green building and construction.
The Episcopal Church made history in 1971 when it filed the first shareholder resolution by a religious organization. The company in question was General Motors, and the resolution called on the company to withdraw its business in South Africa. It was both church history and business history.
Religious organizations had publicly spoken out against South Africa’s repressive system of white supremacy before, but this was the first time that a religious organization had utilized the power of its stock portfolio to raise an issue for a vote by investors. While it was a front-page New York Times story, shareholder support was unenthusiastic, coming in at around 3 percent voting support. But in that moment, a new tool was created to present social and environmental issues to a company’s board and top management.
The Episcopal Church’s witness was quickly adopted by a number of other Protestant denominations including United Church of Christ, American Baptist Church, Presbyterian Church, United Methodist Church, Disciples of Christ and National Council of Churches, followed by Roman Catholic organizations. From a few dozen religious investors in the 1970s, today more than 300 religious organizations are part of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) with member assets of over $100 billion.
The definition of “eco-tourism” is hard to nail down. If forced to, I’d probably say something like: Eco tourism is any travel whose primary purpose is the enjoyment of nature in its wild state and upon which special effort has been made to minimize negative externalities – and maximize the positive ones.
As such, anything from a camping trip to the local state park to an elaborate international adventure would probably qualify. In terms of grander trips, the Galapagos is probably one of the more well known eco-tourism destinations. So what are the basic ways tour companies are minimizing impact? And how are they going above and beyond?
During his presentation, Jörg Sommer, Volkswagen’s VP of product marketing and strategy, said the company believes continued legislative support is needed to reach the next level of electric vehicle adoption.
“Automakers have effectively delivered electric vehicles that can satisfy the needs of most American drivers,” Sommer said this week in Washington, D.C. “In addition to the investment we and other companies and industries are making, we would like to see federal financing support for establishing fast-charging networks in urban areas and interstate corridors.”
Packaging made from recovered ocean trash? Stop it, we’re getting weak in the knees!
With a busy week behind you and the weekend within reach, there’s no shame in taking things a bit easy on Friday afternoon. With this in mind, every Friday TriplePundit will give you a fun, easy read on a topic you care about. So, take a break from those endless email threads, and spend five minutes catching up on the latest trends in sustainability and business.
When it comes to corporate responsibility, far too many major brands are like a bad boyfriend: Sure, their claims sound great at first, but it doesn’t take much follow-up before their true colors come out, leaving you disappointed and in desperate need of a rebound.
But hey, Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and no one wants to hear those stories. To celebrate this day of love, this week we’re tipping our hats to seven brand crushes that have never let us down.
Apple is going all-in on solar energy, to the tune of nearly $3 billion for solar facilities in California and Arizona.
First, the company this week said it will partner with First Solar on a 2,900-acre solar farm in Monterey County, California. Apple has committed $848 million for clean energy from the California Flats solar farm, First Solar said in a press release.
The company will receive electricity from 130 megawatts of the solar project under a 25-year power purchase agreement, which First Solar called “the largest agreement in the industry to provide clean energy to a commercial end user.” Project construction will begin later this year, and completion is scheduled for the end of 2016.
Apple CEO Tim Cook said the First Solar project will produce enough power for the company’s headquarters, all of its retail stores in California and many other facilities. “We know that climate change is real,” he said at the Goldman Sachs technology conference in San Francisco on Tuesday. “Our view is that the time for talk has passed, and the time for action is now. We’ve shown that with what we’ve done.”
What do the United States and Papua New Guinea have in common, aside from nice beaches?
Well, as it turns out, the two countries actually have one disappointing fact in common: They’re the only two countries that don’t guarantee paid time off for new mothers. Current U.S. law, the Family and Medical Leave Act, covers only part of the workforce.
The good news is that this could be changing. Some states are considering paid leave laws of their own. Those that have already passed them continue to reap the benefits. Most promisingly, paid leave has earned a strong defender in President Barack Obama.
“Since paid sick leave won where it was on the ballot last November, let’s put it to a vote right here in Washington,” he said in his recent State of the Union speech, where the theme of middle-class economics was prevalent. “Send me a bill that gives every worker in America the opportunity to earn seven days of paid sick leave. It’s the right thing to do.”
Last year, we wrote that paid leave was one of three signs of hope from 2014, mostly due to successful efforts on the local level. So far, there’s every indication that 2015 will be the year this issue really sees momentum pick up.
It took 50 years from the time the first gas stations cropped up until a nationwide network of gasoline and diesel filling stations emerged. Despite technological, economic and political obstacles, building out a nationwide web of electric-vehicle (EV) charging stations and supporting infrastructure is likely to emerge in far less time, perhaps as little as two decades.
On Jan. 23, two of the world’s largest automakers – Volkswagen and BMW – announced they are teaming up with ChargePoint to build out EV fast-charging station corridors on the U.S. East and West coasts. The project is the largest and most ambitious since Tesla announced plans to build out a cross-country chain of EV charging stations back in late 2012.
Volkswagen of America on Feb. 10 followed up with a dollar figure, announcing it will invest $10 million in the EV infrastructure project by 2016. In a presentation given at the 2015 Electric Drive Congress in Washington, D.C., Jörg Sommer, VW of America vice president of product marketing and strategy, also called on the federal, state and local governments to do more to promote the build-out of EV infrastructure.
The recent assassination of environmental activist Edwin Chota, who fought tirelessly to expel illegal loggers who operated with impunity in the Amazon rainforest, has implications that go well beyond the loss of a single man, as important as his work was for the defense of the Amazon. For decades, those fighting on the front lines of the green war have been terrorized in a bid to silence them and demoralize others who might take their place. And the rest of the world has failed to take notice.
Chota’s demise is all the more tragic because it was so preventable. Despite the death threats he had been receiving for months, authorities failed to provide adequate protection.
Chota, killed on Sept. 8, 2014, with four colleagues from the Asheninka tribe, led the battle to gain title to native lands on the Peruvian side of the Amazon rainforest. The murders were reportedly revenge by criminal loggers who Chota reported to authorities. His assassins were hardly lurking in the shadows. Rather, the men were killed as their entire village looked helplessly on, an example to anyone else who might dare to defend their native land. The slaying fits an ongoing pattern of Mafioso-style murders meant to subvert opposition to local gangs’ illegal activities.
Back in 1944 the Nobel Prize winner, Friedrich Hayek, discussed the important role of economics in society, explaining how it can help us to use knowledge to decide how to efficiently allocate resources, meeting society’s needs in the most effective way. But it would have been difficult for him to predict at the time quite how much knowledge we would have at our fingertips today.
At the time Hayek was writing, products were mechanical and business processes were manual. In the 1960s and the 1970s, advances in information technology enabled a rapid expansion in the use of automation and standardization in production, driving economic growth. Progress in communications technology – particularly the rise of the Internet – created another economic boom in the 1980s and 1990s, by allowing unprecedented levels of coordination, integration and market growth around the world.
We are now entering what is being described as the third wave of IT transformation – where smart technology becomes a key part of products, so that they can communicate with us and interact with other products without human intervention. This is providing leading businesses and forward-thinking governments with the opportunity to pioneer new approaches to creating a more sustainable world.
Social investing continues its march toward the mainstream. Sector research shows a wider variety of investors — including pension funds, mutuals and governments along with an array of private investors — are demonstrating an interest in capitalizing the blended bottom line.
This is all to the good, yet the growth of our industry is bound to expose socially beneficial companies, many of which have led sheltered existences in the care of mission-driven investors, to the stormy seas — and resident sea monsters — of mainstream capitalism.
Water makes life possible. It makes economies function globally.
Our water supplies are under severe strain due to growing demand, pollution and climate change. Growing needs of locales from Las Vegas to the Lone Star state are all pointing to a water-constrained future. Re-thinking how we value water is a critical first step in reducing these strains and safeguarding future water supplies.
One could argue that the answer to water scarcity is to monetize water. The idea of treating water as a commodity like oil or gold might seem disturbing on its face. Access to clean water ought to be a human right, and the United Nations supported this with a 2010 resolution. Environmental economists suggest applying the free market force — Adam Smith’s “The Invisible Hand” speaks to this issue — by allocating a certain amount of water for everyone for free (or almost no cost) and have a free market for the rest.
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