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Business & Technology


Some mass-transit agencies hit hard by financial crisis

Even with increased ridership, some major metropolitan transit agencies are struggling more than usual these days as the credit crisis messes with their funding and ailing banks suddenly call in huge loans, asking for millions of dollars on short notice. Transit agencies in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., have been affected by the turmoil, caused in large part by the collapse of insurance giant AIG. One bank recently told D.C.'s Metro that it owes some $43 million by the end of next week; the agency could soon owe as much as $400 million to creditors. "The …


Electric-car infrastructure coming to Australia

In just a few years, Aussies will be driving to and fro in electric vehicles, plugging in to a grid powered entirely by renewable energy. At least, that's the goal of California-based startup Better Place, which is heading Down Under to put its ambitious vision for an electric-car future into action. Some $671 million, raised with the help of Macquarie Capital Group, will put in place hundreds of thousands of charging and battery-swap stations by 2012; utility AGL Energy has pledged to expand capacity to power the electric-car grid with 100 percent renewable energy. Better Place founder Shai Agassi, who …


Coal-power producer will disclose climate-change risks to shareholders

Coal power could be a risky investment -- according to none other than giant coal-power producer Dynegy Inc. After being subpoenaed by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo last year, Dynegy agreed Thursday to be forthcoming to shareholders about the risks that climate change could pose to their investment. Said Cuomo in announcing the deal, "You have to disclose the facts to the public. It's not just good public policy, it's the law." (Did anyone else note that barely suppressed "booyah"?) Dynegy owns power plants in 13 states and is one of the largest consumers of coal in the U.S. …


Gratitude for quirky wind entrepreneurs

This story about a quirky entrepreneur pursuing the first large-scale, floating-turbine, offshore wind project on the Oregon coast reminded me of this story of a quirky entrepreneur pursuing a massive offshore wind project on the Delaware coast. Both faced stiff resistance -- the latter eventually overcame it, the former, not yet. Let us pause and give thanks for the quirky entrepreneurs, who do this kind of crazy sh*t first so the suits can follow in behind. Thanks, quirky entrepreneurs!


U.N. initiative urges green global economy

Fear not: The economic, food, and climate crises can be tackled in one fell swoop, says the United Nations Environment Program. The organization launched a Green Economy Initiative Wednesday, comparing it to Franklin Roosevelt's Depression-tackling New Deal. "Investments will soon be pouring back into the global economy," says Pavan Dukdhev of Deutsche Bank, which is working with the initiative. "The question is whether they go into the old, extractive, short-term economy of yesterday or a new green economy that will deal with multiple challenges while generating multiple economic opportunities for the poor and the well-off alike." Indeed. UNEP hopes it …


Wal-Mart lays out more environmental goals for itself, suppliers

Huge-mongous retailer Wal-Mart is back at its favorite activity of all time (besides counting its money and sprawlin', of course): setting environmental goals for itself and its suppliers. At a company confab in Beijing, Wal-Mart execs promised a host of eco-improvements in the next few years. Soon, they said, suppliers will have to be certified by a third party to ensure they're complying with local environmental and labor laws; suppliers will also have to start providing Wal-Mart with information on where all their products come from. Eventually, suppliers will also have to improve their energy efficiency and, by 2012, 95 …


Meat Wagon: Squashing beef

Consolidation in the beef industry has gotten too intense even for the Bush DOJ

Way back in March, Brazilian beef-packing behemoth JBS finished an extraordinary lunge into the U.S. market, having snapped up Swift, National Beef Packing, and the beef assets of Smithfield -- the nation's third-, fourth- and fifth-biggest beef packers. If the deals were approved by U.S. antitrust authorities -- and nothing in recent history suggested they wouldn't be -- JBS would own more than a third of the U.S. beef market. And just three firms -- JBS, Tyson, and Cargill -- would slaughter something like 90 percent of beef cows raised in the United States. Well, the unthinkable has happened. The …


EBay to ban sales of ivory on its website

Online auction giant eBay announced Monday that it will ban sales of ivory via its website starting next year due to concerns that it is helping to fuel poaching of endangered elephants. The announcement was made ahead of a report [PDF] released Tuesday by the International Fund for Animal Welfare that tracked online wildlife-product commerce and concluded that eBay is the venue of choice for most online endangered-wildlife sales. Some 75 percent of online wildlife-product sales that were tracked in the study came from elephants, which prompted eBay's ban announcement. "We feel [a ban] is the best way to protect …


Trading green for greenbacks

Washington Post editors join the ranks of the climate confused

The Post ran an editorial, "Cap and Return: Fight the recession or fight global warming? Congress can do both," that is as confused as it is well-meaning. The Post supports strong action now, but they recycle a new inactivist talking point -- we need to modify or weaken our climate strategies because of the recession -- they seem astonishingly unfamiliar with the policies that are currently being discussed, and they embrace a climate proposal that simply won't work. Let's run through it: ... the looming recession will lessen the political will in Washington to pursue policies that would add costs …


Where we are going and why we are in this handbasket, part 3

Finance is valuable to the ‘real economy,’ but the system needs to be replaced

Some Grist readers in comments seem to think we should ignore the financial aspects of the crisis to focus on the "real economy." The problem is, finance is part of the real economy. Credit was invented before paper currency; there are records of debt in ancient Babylon. Try and imagine life without currency, or checkbooks, let alone without finance. Finance is a very real thing. It is information, and it is also a form of human cooperation -- a way for people who never meet or know of one another's existence to work together. But that doesn't mean people who …