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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, …

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Campaign calls on Brita to recycle water filters

With so many tons of disposable plastic being sent to landfills these days, six ounces doesn't seem like a lot. Especially when you've bailed on bottled water in favor of a Brita pitcher and reusable bottle. But don't you still hate throwing out that filter every three months? Beth Terry does. She wrote in her blog Fake Plastic Fish about her frustration at being unable to recycle her Brita filter cartridges, and discovered she was far from alone. Terry then joined with other activists to start TakeBackTheFilter.org, a movement to pressure the Clorox Co., which owns Brita North America, to …

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Two of world’s richest men visit Canadian oil sands

The richest and third-richest men in the world made a surprise visit to an oil-sands operation in the Canadian province of Alberta on Monday. Investor Warren Buffett and Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who are said to have a combined worth of $120 billion, "were exercising curiosity, basically saying, 'Wow, this is neat,'" says Greg Stringham of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. Buffett has recently said he is interested in investing in oil sands; he invests in American oil company ConocoPhillips, which owns significant oil sands assets. If the bigwigs are interested in investing in alternatives to conventional oil, we …

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Pharma giant Lilly snaps up Posilac for ‘at least’ $300 million

A week or so ago, commenting on news that Monsanto was looking to unload its much-despised bovine-growth-hormone business, I offered this nugget of wisdom: Whatever company buys it probably won't have Monsanto's deep pockets. Hmmm. What's that word again? Oh, yeah -- W-R-O-N-G. (Hat tip to Jill of La Vida Locavore.) Today, Monsanto announced that Eli Lilly, one of the biggest of the Big Pharma companies, had bought Posilac (brand name for rBGH) for $300 million. AP reports that Monsanto could get additional cash for Posilac down the road, if it turns out to be a winner for Lilly. And …