Business & Technology

Raw deal

Farmer-consumer group challenges FDA authority to ban interstate raw-milk sales

Don’t cry over raw milk. The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund is taking on the Big Enchilada in the raw milk war: the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s prohibition on interstate shipment of raw milk. The FTCLDF filed suit over the weekend in U.S. District court against FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg, and the secretary of the FDA’s parent agency, Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, challenging the constitutionality of the agency’s prohibition, enacted in 1987. It filed the suit on behalf of consumers and a farmer from six different states; the consumers all travel from states where raw milk sales are …

An unwelcome status update

Does Facebook deserve the hell it’s catching from Greenpeace?

Social networking giant Facebook has been taking heat from enviros recently for its decision to site a massive new data center in Prineville, Ore. The issue? Pacific Power, the utility that serves Prineville, gets most of its power from coal, the enemy of the human race. Greenpeace International has started a Facebook group opposing the move. Facebook, clearly feeling some heat, responded to the controversy over the weekend. Its new data center will involve all sorts of efficiency efforts, but the company’s main argument is that the dry, temperate climate in Oregon will allow it to forego any mechanical chillers …

Green giants

When the big guys want to do the right thing

How green are those Cheerios? Well, no — you’re right — Cheerios shouldn’t be green, but I mean green green. Increasingly, restaurants and food service companies are weighing the need to green their operations and products but the results are often not what they anticipated. According to stories in this week’s issues of two food service industry magazines, QSR and Nation’s Restaurant News (NRN), greening up the kitchen is an effort fraught with as many potential pitfalls as it is possible benefits. Equally as frustrating to customers as it can be for the companies attempting to clean up their acts, …

No money down!

Creative borrowing spurs commercial retrofits

On the heels of San Francisco’s announcement last week that it plans to spend $150 million greening up homes, comes a new report that studies a slew of other innovative ways to finance energy efficiency improvements for all types of buildings. It’s no big surprise that the key to ramping up the energy efficiency industry and fostering technological advances is no-money-down financing so building owners can avoid the capital costs of retrofits.  And that’s exactly what the California Clean Energy Fund (CalCEF) is working toward. Energy efficiency “immediately saves money for end-users, improves the bottom line for companies, reduces local …

Lack of cap-it-all

Could transparency make up for a lack of a carbon cap?

If we can’t yet require companies to reduce their emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping pollutants, can we shame them into doing it? The Obama administration and Democratic leaders in Congress have not so far succeeded in forcing big polluters to cut greenhouse-gas emissions.  But the U.S. EPA is about to force them to report their greenhouse-gas emissions. Big whoop, you say?  Well, actually, it might be.  The new Greenhouse Gas Reporting Rule, which took effect last month, requires industrial facilities that release 25,000 metric tons of CO2-equivalent a year to measure and report their emissions.  (For comparison, that’s …

Picking up the PACE

San Francisco commits $150 million to green homes

Monday night I was having drinks in downtown San Francisco with some seriously smart people — top-level IBM scientists and strategists involved in Big Blue’s Smarter Planet initiative.  Given the room’s collective interest in creating smart electrical grids, smart water systems, advanced electric car batteries and other green technologies, the talk naturally turned to how to create sustainable cities. Solar panel installation in San Francisco.Photo courtesy bkusler via FlickrThe technology largely exists, the IBMers agreed, but what’s really needed is a great leap forward in financial engineering to allow cities to finance all the cool stuff being developed in labs …

Who is the Girlie Man Now?

Companies that invest in states like Massachusetts and California are going to prosper

Is Arnold a carbon girlie man?United NationsAs mudslides on the west coast and an epic blizzard on the east coast competed for news coverage last week, nothing could dim the glow of an economic report that contained a remarkable conclusion: Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick is trying to make California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger look like a carbon girlie man. According to the Eastern Research Group, Massachusetts is on target to cut carbon almost 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, thanks largely to significant programs that improve energy efficiency in factories, buildings, and transportation. Those programs will save money, making Massachusetts …

the evening news

CBS News previews its no-holds-barred report on antibiotics in livestock

Update: Catch part 1 and 2 of the series. Oh, boy. This one has blockbuster written all over it. Tonight, the CBS Evening News is broadcasting the first in a two-part series on the use of antibiotics in livestock (some background here). Katie Couric previewed the report this morning — and it looks like a doozy. The clip features an interview with a farmer who developed an antibiotic-resistant strep infection that was traced to his pigs. The farmer had been feeding sub-therapeutic doses of antibiotics to his barn-raised pigs. Once he recovered, he abandoned those industrial techniques in favor of …

Cash for caulkers at a profit!

Create jobs, reduce lung disease, and help solve the climate crisis at zero cost

As economic stimulus moves back onto the table, why not consider zero cost opportunities to create jobs, opportunities that would reduce lung diseases, and greenhouse gas emissions as a side effect? Create a federal agency with authority to issue federal infrastructure bonds, perhaps an infrastructure bank. Attach conditions that this authority can only finance projects with revenue streams that would fully pay back the cost of issuing those bonds, including principle, interest, transaction costs, and a risk premium. Example: One barrier to lowering emissions is that consumers and businesses will tolerate almost no upfront costs to save energy in buildings. …

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