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Natural corn killers

Ethanol industry craters; investors take a bath; world probably fails to learn lesson

VeraSun, one of nation's largest ethanol producers, mulls bankruptcy. Ethanex Energy files. Alternative Energy Sources shuts down. E3 Biofuels files. A trend? Seems so: It was an American dream that has failed to become a reality. For much of the last decade, enthusiasts from President George W. Bush down have touted corn-based ethanol as something approaching a superfuel, a home-grown alternative to foreign oil that would help cut smog and bring hope to struggling farmers. It has not worked out that way. Instead, the ethanol industry has undergone a great boom and bust in which a Financial Times analysis has …

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Starbucks will double its purchase of fair-trade coffee

Starbucks will buy 40 million pounds of fair-trade-certified coffee next year, doubling the hill of beans it bought this year and becoming the largest purchaser of fair-trade coffee in the world. The caffeine giant, though struggling financially and recognizing the price premium of sustainable bean-buying, has a goal of selling only "responsibly grown and ethically traded" coffee by 2015.

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A modest proposal for Exxon Mobil

The oil companies should bail out the automakers

Cross-posted at the NDN blog ----- As the U.S. auto companies frantically search for ways to stave off bankruptcy, an interesting bit of news surfaced yesterday: Exxon Mobil's profit in the last quarter was the highest of any company ever in history: $14.83 billion. The company is on track to make $50 billion or so this year. To put this in perspective, GM is currently seeking about $10 billion from the government to enable it to merge with Chrysler, which GM says is vital to its survival. What used to be the world's largest automaker is selling almost 1 million …

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GM sugar beet: Trick or treat?

Sugar from GM sugar beets will soon be unlabeled and widespread

The scariest thing next Halloween might not be the monsters, zombies or witches trolling our streets -- it might be the candy. Those colorful, tin-foil-wrapped Hershey's kisses and dark chocolate pumpkins could contain sugar extracted and processed from the roots of genetically modified sugar beets. Sugar in Halloween candy comes from several sources, including sugar beets. But this year, farmers are planting Monsanto's Roundup-Ready GM sugar beets for sale to food producers for the first time. This beet is genetically engineered to survive multiple, direct applications of the weed killer, Roundup, and its active ingredient, glyphosate. What's particularly appalling about …

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Exxon Mobil announces record quarterly profit, again

Exxon Mobil on Thursday announced that it raked in $14.83 billion in its third quarter, breaking its previous record for the highest quarterly profit ever for a U.S. company. John McCain, campaigning in Ohio, declared that "we're not gonna let that happen" again if he's president, neglecting to mention that his tax plan would afford Exxon $1.2 billion in savings.

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Global biz leaders support push for international climate agreement

Undeterred by the shaky economy, a gathering of global business leaders on Wednesday gave the thumbs-up to the United Nations' effort to clinch a global climate deal at its December 2009 rendezvous in Copenhagen.

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The ethics of ethanol

Big Ethanol descends on Africa for land, water, and sympathetic governments

A few weeks ago I was in Mozambique for a conference that brought together NGOs, small-scale farmers, agricultural associations, and local media to discuss the impact of biofuel production in southern Africa. While the United States and other Western countries mandate ethanol quotas to supposedly reduce their consumption of fossil fuels, many farmers in Africa are questioning the reasons and implications for such programs. As the only American at the conference, I was continually asked about the real reasons behind America's ethanol push and the truth about biofuels and greenhouse gas emissions. Most strikingly they wondered if the United States …

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Chrysler puts kibosh on hybrid SUVs

Chrysler is discontinuing production on its Dodge Durango hybrid and Chrysler Aspen hybrid. And if those SUVs don't sound familiar, it's because they never hit the market in the first place.

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Legal ivory sale raises $1.2 million

Some $1.2 million was raised at the world's first legal ivory sale since 1999, held in Namibia on Tuesday. Backers of the approach point out that the money will be used to help out elephants; opponents say it will cause more people to buy ivory -- which is akin, says one activist, to "signing an elephant's death warrant."

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Wal-Mart scales back expansion plans due to poor economy

Wal-Mart announced this week that it will scale down its expansion plans in fiscal 2009 and 2010 due to concerns about a weaker economy. This year, Wal-Mart built 243 new stores, but in these relatively uncertain economic times, the retailer said it plans to construct just 212 new stores in 2009 and 177 in 2010. Before the economic crisis ramped up, one of the only things to successfully slow Wal-Mart's sprawling juggernaut was threatening to unionize its stores.