Business & Technology

Good news, for a change

Nestle to save orangutans, tropical forests, and our climate

Photo courtesy Frank Peters via FlickrFinally … some good news! Today, Nestle, the world’s biggest food and drinks company, announced that it will cease using products that drive the tropical rainforest destruction. This is great news for our environment in what has otherwise been a bleak few weeks. President Obama continues to dig in (or drill in) and stand firm behind his plans to increase offshore oil drilling despite the BP Deepwater oil disaster and continues to work to lift the ban on commercial whaling. In the midst of it all, Nestle’s recent act is a refreshing act of leadership. …

American PRIDE Alternative to Lieberman-Kerry Climate bill -short executive summary

This is the executive summary(doc) of the American PRIDE (Promote Renewable Infrastructure & Develop Efficiency) proposal.  The PRIDE(doc) proposal is a two decade ~400 billion a year jobs bill that makes a profit, while creating two to five million new jobs per year, reducing U.S. oil use by a third within ten years, and reducing U.S. greenhouse gases around 60% by 2020. It phases out close to 90% of U.S. emissions by 2030 and reduces greenhouse gas pollution to around zero by 2040.   Possible technical means To show that this political proposal is reality based, it includes one feasible …

A hot technology

Feds push solar solution to coal addiction

Infinia’s PowerDishPhoto: PowerPlay SolarThe Obama administration last week gave a $62 million boost to efforts to make solar power truly competitive with coal. “The projects announced today will seek to improve component and system designs to extend operation [of concentrated solar power projects] to an average of about 18 hours per day, a level of production that would make it possible for these plants to displace traditional coal-burning power plants,” the Department of Energy said in a statement announcing cash grants that are being doled out over the next five years. The recipients are companies developing technology to store energy …

Sinking chips

Agribiz giant ADM gets taste of Hugo Chavez’s wrath

Longtime Grist readers might recall reading here about a Mexico-based transnational company called Gruma. I’ve written two articles (in 2006 and 2007) about how, after Mexico’s privatization bonanza in the early ’90s, this well-connected company managed to industrialize one of the world’s greatest foodstuffs, the tortilla, strip it of its flavor and much of its nutrition, and gain a near-monopoly over its production in Mexico. The company’s canny owner, Roberto González Barrera, did so by using top-level political connections to manipulate policies designed to protect Mexican farmers and consumers. By the time he was done, those protections were gone — …

Notable Quotable

BP chief says catastrophic oil spill really not all that big

“The Gulf of Mexico is a very big ocean. The amount of volume of oil and dispersant we are putting into it is tiny in relation to the total water volume.” – Tony Hayward, CEO of British Petroleum, attempts to put the now-underestimated Deepwater Horizon oil spill into perspective with that big, blue ocean thing

Out of oversight

The federal MMS: a wholly owned subsidiary of the oil industry

The Deepwater Horizons rig goes boom, killing 11 people and starting a massive and ongoing oil leak. If the Minerals Management Service had been a functional, independent oversight agency, this disaster would likely have never happened.  (Photo: U.S. Navy) Has the government surrendered its ability to rein in corporate excess? Yes, says the New York Times: The federal Minerals Management Service gave permission to BP and dozens of other oil companies to drill in the Gulf of Mexico without first getting required permits from another agency that assesses threats to endangered species — and despite strong warnings from that agency …

American PRIDE – alternative to the Lieberman-Kerry Disaster

The leading U.S. bill in tackling the climate crisis is so flawed and weak and full of concessions to major polluters that even centrist environmental groups like Greenpeace have noticed that it is worse than nothing. It fails to take advantage of the many opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in ways that strengthen our economy. The people most to blame for this are not our Congress critters and Senators. The kind of changes we need originate with grassroots pressure, not with politicians. We need an organized movement centered on grassroots demands for solutions. While networks like have accomplished …

two views, both oily

From above and below, Gulf oil leak looks bad on video

The Waterkeeper Alliance provides aerial footage of the Gulf oil leak, shot last week. And BP, after initially refusing, releases underwater footage of the leak. From above: From below: One more from last week: Writes Jed Lewison at DailyKos, “BP is trying to position itself as a responsible corporate citizen, but its [temporary] decision to keep this video secret from public scrutiny in the midst of what is likely to become the single largest oil spill in American history underscores the fact that first and foremost, BP wants to protect its own interest, everyone else be damned.”    

Fantasy games

Disaster contingency plans are ‘fantasy documents’ when it comes to big oil spills

Lee Clarke.Am I the only one mystified — and, OK, horrified — by British Petroleum’s apparent failure to have a contingency plan in place for just the kind of worst-case scenario that happened in the Gulf on April 20? Thankfully not. “Fantasy documents” is how author and sociologist Lee Clarke describes most corporate contingency plans in his book Mission Impossible: Using Fantasy Documents to Tame Disaster. Clarke is a professor at Rutgers University who studies (how perfect?) disasters and organizational failure. He is also the author of six books on breezy topics such as risk, catastrophes, terrorism, and worst-case scenarios. …

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