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Benitez of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers says deal imminent with Whole Foods

I'm a lame blogger when it comes to breaking news at conferences, when my brain typically reaches explosion point with all the information zooming in. I should have live-blogged this Saturday, while I was taking in Slow Food Nation's "Toward a new, fair food system" panel: Coalition of Immokalee Workers leader Lucas Benitez revealed that Whole Foods is on the verge of agreeing to pay an extra penny per pound for the Florida-grown tomatoes it buys. As part of its "Campaign for Fair Food," CIW is urging all major corporate buyers of Florida tomatoes to agree to the extra-penny-per-pound deal. …

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Honda rolls out new cheap hybrid with familiar name

At the Paris International Auto Show next month, Honda will unveil a prototype of its new low-cost hybrid: the Insight. A lot has changed since 1999, when the company debuted the first hybrid to hit American roads: the, um, Insight. Has Honda exhausted its supply of car names? Nay, says the company: "The name Insight was chosen to denote Honda's 'insight' into a new era in which hybrid vehicles come within reach of most car buyers." Indeed, when the new Insight hits showrooms in spring 2009, it's expected to be priced around $18,500; the base retail price for the 2009 …

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Biofuels: not cost-effective or lucrative for climate change or business

According to this article in Mongabay, a study from a British think tank is calling for an end to subsidies for biofuels based on -- not biodiversity loss and high food prices -- cost effectiveness. The economics is startling -- if developed countries spent the same amount of money on preventing deforestation and the destruction of peatlands as they do on biofuel subsidies (US $15 billion), this would halve the total costs of tackling climate change. In addition to this, the protection of these habitats yields a plethora of valuable eco-system services, particularly in the poorest countries." Normally, a third …

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New HP laptop packaged in messenger bag instead of box

Don't take Grandma to Wal-Mart: the big-box store's new Hewlett-Packard laptop "will be displayed on shelves wearing only the HP Protect Messenger Bag." Scandalous! But actually, there's no need to avert your eyes: the HP Pavilion dv6929 is served up in a recycled, reusable messenger bag instead of a box, cutting cardboard and plastic packaging by 97 percent. Thinking outside the box helped HP win Wal-Mart's Home Entertainment Design Challenge, which judged suppliers' products on attractive design, environmental innovation, and less-wasteful, less-toxic packaging. Wal-Mart says 25 percent less truck space is now needed to schlep the computer to stores, cutting …

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Offshore wind power in U.S. poised to take off

There are no offshore wind turbines generating electricity in U.S. waters yet, but that's expected to change soon if wind-power advocates and wind developers have their way. The first U.S. offshore wind turbines could be spinning in as little as three to five years if all goes well. The U.S. Interior Department is already conducting environmental impact studies for offshore wind farms at 10 sites in federal waters off the U.S. East Coast, and the agency is expected to finalize its rules for offshore alternative-energy production by the end of the year. For their part, wind-energy companies are especially excited …

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RNC: Bipartisanship trumps renewable energy, at least party-wise

Kate and I did the party circuit tonight, and it was ... weird. Our first stop was a party thrown by the Bipartisan Policy Center. Grist readers will be familiar with the BPC via its founder and current president Jason Grumet, who is Barack Obama's top energy and climate adviser. The BPC also threw a party in Denver at the DNC. That one was relatively modest -- in a smallish bar, with maybe 50-75 people. This one, however, was huge. It was held in a ginormous chi-chi bar/restaurant called the Bellanote, which is apparently the hip spot in Minneapolis right …

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Wis. utilities want customers to cover all fuel volatility

Wisconsin's five regulated electric utilities have asked to have fuel increases in gas and coal costs automatically passed along to their customers rather than wait until they can file a formal rate case. Their regulator said no. In a bizarre bit of doublespeak, the utilities argued that passing 100 percent of fuel volatility risk along to their customers would be good because: Executives at several Wisconsin utilities said the changes could benefit shareholders and customers by reducing volatility. It certainly would reduce volatility for their shareholders. But customers? Not surprisingly, consumer groups have opposed the measure, again raising the specter …

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Bush admin proposes rule that could delay workplace toxics standards

Last week, the Bush administration published a proposed rule that would add an extra step to the process of creating federal standards for toxics and other hazardous substances in the workplace. The rule, which was reportedly rushed so it could take effect before President Bush leaves office, has been widely criticized by unions and other worker advocates as an unnecessary delay that ultimately won't help workers. "It's a terrible idea," said workplace safety professor David Michaels. "It will lead to more delays in setting new standards, and it gives parties that oppose new regulations an opportunity to confuse the regulatory …

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Industry groups sue Interior over polar bear

The U.S. Interior Department has been sued yet again over polar bears, this time by five industry groups that say the agency's regulations for protecting bears unfairly single out Alaska businesses' contribution to climate change. When the polar bear was declared a threatened species because of climate change, Interior went to great lengths to note that the ruling should not be used to block greenhouse-gas-spewing fossil-fuel development. To that end, the agency specifically exempted industrial projects from undergoing related reviews in every state -- except for Alaska. The American Petroleum Institute, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Mining Association, National Association …

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In landmark deal, utility will disclose climate-change risks

In a first-of-its-kind deal, utility Xcel Energy has agreed to give its investors detailed information about the risks that climate change poses to business. New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo subpoenaed Xcel and four other utilities in September, asking them to determine whether their plans to build new coal plants posed undisclosed risks to investors -- from lawsuits and the cost of complying with carbon regulations to the impacts of drought and rising seas. So far, Xcel is the only one that has agreed to analyze and disclose potential impacts. The landmark agreement "sets a new industry-wide precedent," says Cuomo, …