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Wal-Mart scales back expansion plans due to poor economy

Wal-Mart announced this week that it will scale down its expansion plans in fiscal 2009 and 2010 due to concerns about a weaker economy. This year, Wal-Mart built 243 new stores, but in these relatively uncertain economic times, the retailer said it plans to construct just 212 new stores in 2009 and 177 in 2010. Before the economic crisis ramped up, one of the only things to successfully slow Wal-Mart's sprawling juggernaut was threatening to unionize its stores.

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Corporate foot soldiers fired up to kick environmental butt

I'm at REFF-West -- a clean tech conference in Seattle -- today. These conferences are a dime a dozen these days, so I probably won't bombard you with tons of posts. But as I was listening to Kostya L. Zolotusky of Boeing, I had a thought. Aviation is considered one of the top evil-doers by green campaigners. Not only do planes spew tons of greenhouse gases, but they spew them far up in the atmosphere where they do exponentially more damage. Greens worldwide (particularly in Europe) are basically trying to shut down or substantially curtail aviation. Meanwhile, Boeing is saying …

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Hundreds of U.S. car dealerships going out of business

The economic slump and its attendant credit woes, combined with America's declining love for the automobile, have already shuttered some 590 new-car dealerships this year, as well as 430 last year. Before 2008 is over, 110 more U.S. dealerships are expected to close their doors for good. May we suggest a nice bike shop instead?

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European Union will require airlines to join carbon-trading program

Airlines flying within the borders of the European Union will be required to participate in a pollution-permit trading system to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions starting in 2012, the E.U. ruled on Friday. The decision ticked off the U.S. and the airline industry.

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Greenland ice-loss soars: Bad for you, great for bottled water biz

A new study in Geophysical Research Letters ($ub. req'd) led by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory finds ... ... the ice sheet was losing 110 ± 70 Gt/yr [billion tons/year] in the 1960s, 30 ± 50 Gt/yr or near balance in the 1970s-1980s, and 97 ± 47 Gt/yr in 1996 increasing rapidly to 267 ± 38 Gt/yr in 2007. Yes, why should all that water only go to submerging the great coastal cities of the world when (a tiny fraction of) it could go to slaking the thirst of all the people who live in the great cities of the world …

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Some mass-transit agencies hit hard by financial crisis

Even with increased ridership, some major metropolitan transit agencies are struggling more than usual these days as the credit crisis messes with their funding and ailing banks suddenly call in huge loans, asking for millions of dollars on short notice. Transit agencies in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., have been affected by the turmoil, caused in large part by the collapse of insurance giant AIG. One bank recently told D.C.'s Metro that it owes some $43 million by the end of next week; the agency could soon owe as much as $400 million to creditors. "The …

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Electric-car infrastructure coming to Australia

In just a few years, Aussies will be driving to and fro in electric vehicles, plugging in to a grid powered entirely by renewable energy. At least, that's the goal of California-based startup Better Place, which is heading Down Under to put its ambitious vision for an electric-car future into action. Some $671 million, raised with the help of Macquarie Capital Group, will put in place hundreds of thousands of charging and battery-swap stations by 2012; utility AGL Energy has pledged to expand capacity to power the electric-car grid with 100 percent renewable energy. Better Place founder Shai Agassi, who …

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Coal-power producer will disclose climate-change risks to shareholders

Coal power could be a risky investment -- according to none other than giant coal-power producer Dynegy Inc. After being subpoenaed by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo last year, Dynegy agreed Thursday to be forthcoming to shareholders about the risks that climate change could pose to their investment. Said Cuomo in announcing the deal, "You have to disclose the facts to the public. It's not just good public policy, it's the law." (Did anyone else note that barely suppressed "booyah"?) Dynegy owns power plants in 13 states and is one of the largest consumers of coal in the U.S. …

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Gratitude for quirky wind entrepreneurs

This story about a quirky entrepreneur pursuing the first large-scale, floating-turbine, offshore wind project on the Oregon coast reminded me of this story of a quirky entrepreneur pursuing a massive offshore wind project on the Delaware coast. Both faced stiff resistance -- the latter eventually overcame it, the former, not yet. Let us pause and give thanks for the quirky entrepreneurs, who do this kind of crazy sh*t first so the suits can follow in behind. Thanks, quirky entrepreneurs!

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U.N. initiative urges green global economy

Fear not: The economic, food, and climate crises can be tackled in one fell swoop, says the United Nations Environment Program. The organization launched a Green Economy Initiative Wednesday, comparing it to Franklin Roosevelt's Depression-tackling New Deal. "Investments will soon be pouring back into the global economy," says Pavan Dukdhev of Deutsche Bank, which is working with the initiative. "The question is whether they go into the old, extractive, short-term economy of yesterday or a new green economy that will deal with multiple challenges while generating multiple economic opportunities for the poor and the well-off alike." Indeed. UNEP hopes it …