Business & Technology

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 — …

A must-read

Paul Krugman on ‘Building a Green Economy’

Nobelist Paul Krugman has a long piece in the upcoming Sunday New York Times Magazine, basically climate economics 101. It is nearly 8000 words, so while you should read the whole thing, I’ll post some of the highlights below. I’ll also throw some links to the scientific and economic literature that the NYT, in its infinite wisdom/stupidity, refuses to include. The essay isn’t primarily about the science, but this is what Krugman has to say on that, starting with the opening paragraph: If you listen to climate scientists — and despite the relentless campaign to discredit their work, you should …

Energy X-games

Meet America’s most extreme energy geeks

Photo courtesy PNNL via FlickrJet-engine wind turbines, fuel made from big batches of algae, enzymes that trap power plant CO2. Sound seriously far-fetched? They may be. But these concepts are fetching serious investment dollars from the Department of Energy. DOE Secretary Steven Chu — a Nobel Prize-winning inventor himself — has launched a new program dubbed “ARPA-E.” It’s modeled after DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), the Pentagon’s technology-innovation program that was responsible for the internet, cell phones, GPS, and other technical breakthroughs. ARPA-E is doling out multimillion dollar grants to the nation’s most visionary energy innovators — thrill-seeking, over-achieving …

Snidely Q. Blankenship

This week in comically evil corporate behavior

Updated It’s only Wednesday and we’ve already got way more than a week’s worth of comically evil behavior from the fossil-fuel sector. Item the first: A Chinese coal freighter tried to take a shortcut through Australia’s Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and rammed into the world-reknowned ecological treasure. The stranded ship remains in danger of breaking apart and spilling its 1,075 tons of heavy engine fuel into the marine park (2.5 tons have already leaked). Captain Wang Jichan, of the Chinese state-controlled conglomerate Cosco, doesn’t get it. He told authorities the leak is “not serious” and that he’s more worried …

we're number one

Americans eat more processed food than, well, anyone

The New York Times had a small article and a big graphic recently on America’s love affair with processed, packaged food: Americans eat 31 percent more packaged food than fresh food, and they consume more packaged food per person than their counterparts in nearly all other countries. A sizable part of the American diet is ready-to-eat meals, like frozen pizzas and microwave dinners, and sweet or salty snack foods. This probably doesn’t come as too much of a surprise to anyone, especially given our outsized obesity rates compared to other countries. But the accompanying graphic helpfully illustrates a most unfortunate …

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