Business & Technology

THE BEATDOWN GOES ON

Seven reasons BP would like to forget last weekend

It’s been 81 days since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and sank in the Gulf.Photo: U.S. Coast GuardIt should have been a good weekend for BP. Its latest plan to staunch the geyser — lowering a tighter cap over the spewing pipe — is ahead of schedule, and its two relief wells, which could stop the gushing once and for all, remain on track to be ready in mid-August. But, as we’ve come to learn over the past 81 days — and counting — BP reeks of bad karma.  Here are seven of examples from last weekend alone: Chum and …

Rebate and switch

Are kickbacks from Kellogg and others driving school-food purchasing?

D.C. Public Schools in the last two years have taken in more than $1 million in corporate rebates — referred to by some as “kickbacks” — paid by giant food manufacturers as an inducement to place their brands on kids’ cafeteria trays at school. Documents I obtained through the Freedom of Information Act show that Chartwells, the company hired by D.C. Schools to provide food services at 122 schools across the city, through February of this year had declared $1,076,738 in rebates it received since its contract began in the fall of 2008. That represents 5 percent of the $18.7 …

Weeding out the influence

Weighing safety of weed killer in drinking water, EPA relies heavily on industry-backed studies

Illustration by Lagan Sebert, Huffington Post Investigative Fund, EPA Image by Harry Hanbury, Crop Duster image courtesy Jenni Jone via FlickrCross-posted from the Huffington Post Investigative Fund Companies with a financial interest in a weed-killer sometimes found in drinking water paid for thousands of studies federal regulators are using to assess the herbicide’s health risks, records of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency show. Many of these industry-funded studies, which largely support atrazine’s safety, have never been published or subjected to an independent scientific peer review. Meanwhile, some independent studies documenting potentially harmful effects on animals and humans are not included …

Recurrent Energy

California’s photovoltaic push

Amid the hullabaloo over government-chartered mortgage giants derailing the green financing program known as Property Assessed Clean Energy, or PACE, the march toward distributed generation of renewable energy — that is, generating electricity from decentralized sources such as rooftop solar panels or backyard wind turbines — continues. Case in point: The Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) announced Wednesday that it had awarded contracts to San Francisco’s Recurrent Energy to install 60 megawatts’ worth of solar panels in the region surrounding California’s state capital. Rather than construct a central solar power station, Recurrent will scatter a dozen five-megawatt installations around two …

SUNNY SIDE UP

Sure it’s hot, but here are six reasons not to hate the sun

Spend a week on the sticky East Coast and it’s easy to go off on the sun. But stay cool. If we have any hope of beating our oil addiction, we need that Great Heat Machine in the Sky. Just last weekend, President Obama committed to $2 billion in loans to solar energy companies, including one outfit building a huge solar plant in Arizona. That’ll help. Here are six stories to remind you that the sun is our friend. Really. The  plane, the plane:  Sure, it’s all wing and has a top speed of only 75 miles an hour, but …

PACE OFF

Treasury Department hits PACE homeowners

On Tuesday, the Federal Housing Finance Agency effectively shut down an innovative green financing program called Property Assessed Clean Energy, or PACE, by restricting the ability of homeowners to take out loans to install solar panels and make other energy efficiency improvements. Now the United States Treasury Department has piled on. A new Treasury directive tells the nation’s banks how to enforce the FHFA rules. The move could pose new problems for homeowners who have PACE loans, and complicate efforts to get the program back on track. Homeowners repay PACE loans through an annual assessment on their property taxes. On …

energeez

Holiday weekend brings good news — and bad — for clean energy

The Fourth of July isn’t quite Earth Day but it’s becoming a favored holiday for companies and policymakers to declare energy independence, as was the case this past weekend. Cypress Semiconductor, kicked things off when T.J. Rodgers, the company’s chief executive, declared at a press conference that the Silicon Valley chipmaker would go completely off the grid by 2015. Not go carbon neutral — the favored strategy of many companies that buy carbon credits to supposedly offset their greenhouse gas emissions — but to actually cut the power cord. On Friday, Rodgers, one of the Valley’s more iconoclastic iconoclasts, unveiled …

a barrel full of family fun

BP offshore oil board game: Seemed like a fun idea at the time?

Back in the ’70s, BP decided to market a family board game by the name of “Offshore Oil Strike,” boasting the “thrills of drilling” as well as the “hazards and rewards.” I mean, Monopoly worked out pretty well for the Wall Street tycoons even in the midst of the Great Depression, right? On the other hand, if you drew one of the game’s Hazard Cards, even little Suzy could probably predict what might happen in the Gulf of Mexico one day: “Blow-out! Rig damaged. Oil slick clean-up costs. Pay $1 million.” It appears the BP execs who lacked the foresight …

Good News From the Past and the Dump

In a week that saw more oil wash over Gulf of Mexico shores and more oil lobbying money wash over Congress – – both with predictable results – – I thought we could all use some good news and reasons to be hopeful. I found that inspiration on a trip to Germany and the UK inside two companies that have very unique perspectives on the challenges and opportunities that the world faces today. Of course the continuing debacle in the Gulf speaks for itself, shouts from the headlines with failure upon failure to stop the oil gusher and from the …