Business & Technology

It Takes an Army

BP gears up to win over Washington and the rest of us

A BP trash bag — not quite big enough to contain its mess.Photo: abrahamhyat via FlickrA little less than a month ago, back before he was madly tripping over his tongue, BP CEO Tony Hayward was sounding almost inspirational as he channeled Winston Churchill: “We are determined to fight this spill on all fronts, in the deep water of the Gulf, in the shallow waters, and, should it be necessary, on the shore.” But, alas, then was then and now is now.  These days Hayward and BP are preparing for new battles: They are determined to fight in Congress, in …

Hold Your Breath and Sell BP

I am very cautious about giving investment advice and downright reluctant to just pile onto the media frenzy attacking BP for its blunders in the Gulf of Mexico. That said, I feel compelled to warn America about the greater disaster that looms ahead for anyone who owns BP stock or anyone east of the Mississippi River who breathes. President Obama has criticized BP for paying dividends to shareholders before a full accounting of damages for the Deepwater Horizon disaster. His Attorney General may bring criminal charges. Credit Suisse reports that clean-up costs may reach $23 billion and that legal claims …

Tainted green

The oil spill’s challenge to corporate sustainability

I generally don’t write much about big business, but in light of the implosion of BP’s “green” oil company image — it’s looking more Exxon than eco these days — I went to a dinner Monday night in San Francisco attended by dozens of Fortune 500 executives committed to corporate sustainability. (There were reportedly a few BP execs in the audience, but not surprisingly they kept a low profile.) The occasion was the Corporate Eco Forum, an organization that brings together multinationals ranging from AT&T to Yahoo to hash out strategies for sustainable business. Attendees gathered at the Asian Art …

Oil and Vinegar Redressing

BP should be like Newman’s Own

After the BP Gulf disaster is ancient history, I want that company to thrive. I want it to be vastly more profitable than ExxonMobil. It should continue exploration and drilling all over the world, including offshore. And I’m asking for just one broad change in how the company operates: BP should donate all its profits for the rest of its corporate life. The only fair way out of the gulf spill would be for BP to become just like Newman’s Own, a corporation that donates all profits to charity — in this case, to reparations for damage done by the spill. And by staying …

VIDEO: Is Gulf seafood safe to eat after oil spill?

New Orleans is world-famous for its seafood, but the Gulf Coast oil spill has left the future of the industry and those who rely on it for their livelihoods in jeopardy as fishing grounds close and diners fear for the safety of their meals. In this video, OnEarth magazine examines the impact of the Deepwater Horizon disaster on the New Orleans seafood scene and local culture.

when the drilling gets tough

Snapshots of the ‘tough oil’ era

There are vigorous debates about when we reached, or will soon reach, peak oil, the stage at which we’ve used more of the planet’s oil than we have left in supply. But it’s plenty clear that we’re deep into the age of tough oil, in which the most easily accessible oil has long since been retrieved and burned. Remaining reserves are increasingly difficult to reach and extract.  This graphic shows how we’ve been forced to drill deeper and deeper in the Gulf of Mexico:   Daniel Gross at Slate offers a good overview of the era of “extreme energy” — …

Welfare reform we can believe in

IEA stunner: global subsidies to dirty energy top $550 billion a year

File this one under “news that ought to be the top headline across the world but will likely be ignored.” An early draft of a comprehensive new study from the International Energy Agency reveals that total global subsidies to dirty fossil-fuel energy amount to $550 billion a year — about 75 percent more than previously thought. The Financial Times got a peak at the draft and covers it today, soliciting this absolutely fabulous quote from chief IEA economist Faith Birol: “I see fossil fuel subsidies as the appendicitis of the global energy system, which needs to be removed for a …

Birminghamburgers

How food micro-entrepreneurs nourish cities

In her book The Economy of Cities, the great urban theorist Jane Jacobs praised what she called the “valuable inefficiencies and impracticalities of cities.” To explain her point, she invited readers to consider two examples from 19th century England: Manchester and Birmingham — or as she put it, “Efficient Manchester” and “Inefficient Birmingham.” As I have written before, efficient Manchester specialized in textiles, building a world-beating industry dominated by a few large, streamlined companies. Inefficient Birmingham, by contrast, housed dozens of different trades. And in place of a few big companies, most of Birmingham’s manufacturing was performed by small organizations …

Fuelish behavior

The little black box that could save both lives and fuel

I recently took the Chevrolet Volt for a spin near San Francisco’s ballpark, checking another item off my electric-car life list. (Getting to drive pre-production EVs is one fringe benefit of covering green tech.) Then the other week, I took a drive in another car that promised to help cut greenhouse gas emissions. The car itself was unremarkable — a Lexus RX hybrid that anyone with a spare $42,000 can buy. What was potentially revolutionary was the little black box sitting on the dashboard to the left of the steering wheel. The box had three lights and when the car’s …

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