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750 billion

Ramblings on the financial crisis

Based on my own extensive analysis of the ongoing financial crisis, I've come to the following conclusions: Nobody clearly understands how we got in this situation. Nobody clearly understands what situation we are in. Nobody clearly understands what's going to happen next. Despite all this, every single human being with access to a keyboard and a website is willing to make a mockery of the profession of journalism by making confident pronouncements. Not me. I'm just a blogger, so I'm happily willing to admit my comparative cluelessness. I'll just throw a few things out there for discussion. Oil spiked up …

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One trillion for billionares and pennies for solar?

I was going to post on the money we are pouring into this bailout compared to what we get for green investment. But John McGrath said it for me: ...The very first things Barack Obama should do when inaugurated is 1) propose legislation to the U.S. Congress creating single-payer healthcare in America, and 2) initiate a massive program to get America off coal, oil, and natural gas. Expensive, you say? Big government, you say? Bite me. If the U.S. taxpayer can be put on the hook for billions to no purpose at all, while the arsonists responsible for this mess …

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Hazardous substances still a mainstay for Big Chemical

The good news: some companies are moving toward nontoxic chemicals and products. The bad news: many aren't. In a 2007 report, consultants hired by Big Chemical concluded that the industry's eco-initiatives are "reactive, not proactive," and that it "has a very short-term focus and discounts long-term issues." There is, wrote the consultants, "a lack of product responsibility in the industry, with most product stewardship efforts seen as minimal and ineffective." At the 50 largest chemical companies, funding for research and development of new compounds has actually been declining since 2000. Some companies treat the green movement as a phase that …

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Further implications of the financial meltdown

A weak economy brings a diminished appetite for curbs on carbon emissions

The Freakonomics blog offers up a long-ish but lucid discussion of the ongoing financial crisis. I recommend the whole thing, but in a nutshell: Financial institutions borrow money all the time to fund their investments. When the real estate bubble burst, a lot of those investments lost value rapidly, leaving banks such as Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers unable to borrow new money and unable to repay their existing debt. This situation can lead to a domino effect -- "contagious failures" -- in which borrowers are unable to repay lenders, who are then themselves sucked into the financial crisis. The …

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Notable quotable

From the mouths of oil executives …

"There is certainly some potential. But to me the biggest potential in America that is not exploited is energy savings. There is such an immense opportunity." -- Paolo Scaroni, chief executive of Italian oil giant ENI, on offshore drilling

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Must 'science' mean 'corporate science'?

Wired: Two top Obama science advisors are tied to Monsanto and Amgen

I hope the executive branch's "war on science" era ends in January. Heading into a period of climate change, tight fossil energy supplies, growing trouble with food-borne illnesses, declining health metrics, etc, we clearly don't need a bunch of creationists and climate-change deniers knocking about the White House. At the same time, I hope we don't swing in the direction of a hyper-corporate vision of science: the idea that big problems demand big solutions -- the kind conveniently offered by really big companies. Well, Wired recently got the Obama campaign to reveal its five main science advisors. Unhappily, two of …

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Bottled water, everywhere

Natural Hydration Council: drink more bottled water … please?

Bottled water sales growth may be "drying up," but the bottled-water industry is veritably gushing on the PR front. Here it is investing in a high-dollar sponsorship of the upcoming presidential campaigns, joining Anheuser-Busch, EDS (which specializes in "information technology outsourcing), BBH, a big U.K. advertising firm, and others. And over here, you've got water giants Nestle Waters, Danone, and Highland Spring rolling out the Natural Hydration Council. Right, because the only way to stay "naturally hydrated" is to package water into tiny plastic bottles and haul it around the globe. The NHC will "research and promote the environmental, health …

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Google, GE team up to tout ‘smart grid,’ clean energy initiatives

General Electric and Google announced on Wednesday they're teaming up to promote renewable energy, specifically geothermal energy and plug-in hybrids, and spur better investment and swifter government action to create "smart," more efficient electrical grids. In recent years, both enormous companies have announced big green investments: GE launched its Ecomagination initiative in 2005 to expand its spending on greener technology to some $25 billion by 2010, and last year, Google announced a similar program with a smaller budget and a slightly more specific focus called Renewable Energy Cheaper Than Coal to, well ... you know. "Both companies believe that our …

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California air agency says cutting emissions will boost economy

California's 2006 law requiring the state to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 would help boost its economy and save residents more money in the long term than doing nothing, according to a report by the influential California Air Resources Board. The state's draft plan for reducing emissions focuses on requiring utilities to generate one-third of their electricity from renewables, increasing the energy efficiency of state buildings, and (if it's ever granted the waiver it needs from the U.S. EPA) requiring new vehicles sold in the state to significantly reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions. By 2020, such measures would …