Business & Technology

The New Bottom Line

As the economy begins to rebound, businesses are again focused on commodities that may be in short supply when manufacturing shifts back into high gear. Oil, refined fuels, steel, and electricity are among many things that may be harder to get or just harder to afford. But what about the one commodity that is needed by almost every part of the supply chain, including the workforce – – water? According to the World Health Organization, more than one billion people live without a reliable water supply and at least another billion drink from unsanitary water resources that result in catastrophic …

The proof is in the soda

HFCS, the precautionary principle, and the myth of absolute certainty

This is Part 2 of 2 posts of in-depth analysis into the breakthrough work on High Fructose Corn Syrup and weight gain by Princeton researchers. _______________ How much “proof” do we need that the pervasiveness of cheap, HFCS-sweetened junk is making us ill? As a follow-up to my email exchange with Princeton HFCS study lead author Dr. Bart Hoebel, I thought I might dig into some of the underlying issues surrounding the HFCS Wars. I understand and accept that a healthy skepticism is necessary in scientific debate. But reading the responses from “independent” voices (i.e. people not affiliated with Big …

I see you baby, shakin' that Massey

Grist: hating on Don Blankenship before hating on Don Blankenship was cool

Rachel Maddow absolutely nailed the Massey mine story, with some help from Jeff Goodell: The tragedy at the Upper Big Branch Mine has prompted lots of folks in the national media to take a close look at Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship for the first time, but I wrote my first post on Blankenship (“Massey Energy CEO is a really bad dude“) in 2006, and Goodell wrote about Blankenship is his 2007 book Big Coal, and so all I can say is: we told you so. I consider myself a fair and balanced kind of journalist. I like to let …

The bitter with the sweet

A high-fructose corn syrup researcher answers his critics

This is Part 1 of 2 posts of in-depth analysis into the breakthrough work on high-fructose corn syrup and weight gain by Princeton researchers. _______________ I have to admit that I was fascinated to watch the fallout over the Princeton HFCS study. What I thought would generate a “oh, look, another great reason to avoid HFCS!” reaction swiftly turned into “that study doesn’t prove a thing!!” — a sentiment that nutritionists, food business columnists and the Corn Refiners Association all, remarkably, shared. Still, several questions raised by critics are worth addressing. We contacted the lead author of the Princeton study, …

Meat wagon

Rotten eggs, stampeded rain forests, and more

In Meat Wagon, we round up the latest outrages from the meat and livestock industries. ————- Nasty, brutish, and short: the facts of life for hens in an egg factory. Moral of this story on inhumane practices in the egg industry: when a few huge companies dominate production of a commodity in a low-profit-margin industry, they zealously cut costs at every level of production. The key goal is to maximize output. Above a certain level, the company churns out a profit. Below that level, it loses cascading amounts of money for its shareholders. If you happen to be a cog …

Circle of live(savers)

Wal-Mart stores are littered with wasteful products this month

This month, in honor of Earth Day, Wal-Mart is selling garbage next to the garbage already on the shelves. The only difference is that these new products have been reincarnated into useful items thanks to the upcycling company TerraCycle. Until April 29, these kites, pots, and bags made from waste are being sold right next to the products they come from. For example, this Oreo-branded backpack is on sale next to boxes of real Oreos:               As an added bonus, some kids might even pick up the backpacks thinking they’re full of Oreos. (The …

The coal-geonengineering connection

What does coal mining have to do with geoengineering?

The other day, an MSNBC producer asked me, “What is the connection between this coal-mine disaster in West Virginia and geoengineering the planet?” The question is not as strange as it sounds. A few years ago, I wrote a book called Big Coal: The Dirty Secret Behind America’s Energy Future. Among other things, I spent a lot of time underground with coal miners and learned a lot about the dangers and problems of mining coal. I also learned a lot about Don “I’m a poor guy with a lot of money” Blankenship, the CEO of Massey Energy, which owns the …

Growing pains

Is raw milk becoming too popular for its own good?

Whatha’s looking it? As raw milk’s popularity grows, so does scrutiny. It’s been a tough twelve months for proponents of raw milk. Last April, as many as 81 Colorado consumers were sickened by campylobacter associated with raw milk. Last September, about 35 people became ill with campylobacter, apparently from milk from a Wisconsin dairy. And just in the last few weeks, 17 raw milk drinkers in the Midwest associated with a dairy in Indiana have become ill with campylobacter. Added to all that, Whole Foods last month notified producers in four states—California, Washington, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania—that it would no longer …

The problem with a green economy: economics hates the environment

Cross-posted from the Wonk Room. Economics is critical to getting decent climate legislation passed, as Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman discusses in a extended piece for the New York Times. Economists like me have always suspected that this was true, but then we also suspect that economics is critical to pretty much everything. The problem is that economics hates the environment, or at least environmental policy. In the real world, environmental policy has been very good for the economy. But economic analyses of climate legislation find that pollution limits slow economic growth and increase costs. The Waxman-Markey climate bill — …

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