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Business & Technology


The (renewable) electron economy, part 12

How do we build (energy) infrastructure?

The enthusiasm for unregulated markets in the last 30 years of American public policy has obscured how large pieces of infrastructure get built. Unregulated markets, to work according to their ideal, require economic actors to be able to create competing offers which are judged by consumers or buyers according to the total value they represent. Infrastructure, by its nature, involves building structures so massive that competition is considered economically inefficient, if not socially undesirable (two roads or bridges that "compete" with each other would be an eyesore and end up being much more expensive for society). Power plants, inclusive of …


Hurricane Wall Street

Making environmental sense of the financial storm now raging

Interpreting reports currently coming out of Wall Street is like tracking a vast hurricane as it rages its way through the Gulf and toward a population center: Conditions are way too chaotic to make confident predictions, but preparing for the worst probably isn't a bad idea. As recently as a year ago, no one could possibly have foreseen the disappearance of three of the big five Wall Street investment banks, or the nationalization of our nation's two mega-mortgage refinanciers. We have officially entered uncharted territory -- it's as if the sky had turned lime green and sprouted polka dots. The …


Everglades restoration deal could still benefit Big Sugar

When Florida Gov. Charlie Crist announced in June that the state would buy 187,000 acres of land from U.S. Sugar Corp. to "jump start" an Everglades restoration effort, environmentalists cheered visions of flowing, fresh water and pristine, untouched habitat. But that may not turn out to be exactly the case. Crist initially said he would use the land to build a flow way between Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades, quenching the thirsty River of Grass with water untainted by phosphorus from sugar production. But for that plan to go forward, the state will also have to obtain 40,000 acres owned …


World Bank yanks corruption-tainted pipeline funding from Chad

The World Bank has pulled funding from a 663-mile oil pipeline in Chad and Cameroon, having lost its gamble that the project would funnel oil wealth into poverty reduction instead of the pockets of corrupt officials. The bank made the loan in 2000, with the stipulation that 72 percent of oil royalties be spent on schools, hospitals, and roads. Covering the decision, Grist wrote that opponents "say it would destroy sensitive rainforest, lead to oil spills, dislocate indigenous peoples, and line the pockets of corrupt African officials." Sure enough, the Chadian government failed to follow through on its end of …


Palin asks Schwarzenegger to veto bill that would reduce port pollution

One day before being catapulted into the running for GOP vice president, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin wrote a letter to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), urging him to veto a significant pollution-reduction effort. Specifically, she asked the Governator to not sign a bill that would impose container fees on ships entering the ports of Long Beach, Los Angeles, and Oakland. If OK'd, the fees would bring in an estimated $400 million per year, which would go toward installation of cleaner truck and train engines and projects aimed to reduce congestion and idling. Palin said the fee will harm Alaska's economy …


Market for natural personal-care products booming in spite of economy

Despite an economic slump, eco-friendly personal-care items have Americans sitting up and paying attention top dolla. Sales are booming despite high food and energy prices, and analysts predict the products' popularity won't ebb anytime soon. Chicago-based research firm Mintel reports that sales of natural personal-care products rose 12.5 percent last year to an inflation-adjusted $465 million; it estimates sales this year will hit $513 million. A combination of eco-awareness and concern about synthetic ingredients is spurring rapid growth in the natural personal-care industry, which is growing five times faster than the plain ol' personal-care industry, according to the Natural Products …


A new plan for a 'green recovery'

$100 billion stimulus for 2 million new jobs in two years

Yesterday, the Center for American Progress released "Green Recovery," a new report by Dr. Robert Pollin and University of Massachusetts Political Economy Research Institute economists. This report demonstrates how a new Green Recovery program that invests $100 billion over two years would create 2 million new jobs with a significant proportion in the struggling construction and manufacturing sectors. It is clear from this research that a strategy to invest in the greening of our economy will create more jobs, and better jobs, compared to continuing to pursue a path of inaction marked by rising dependence on fossil fuel billionaires. To …


Something fishy in Alaska

Gourmet’s Barry Estabrook on Palin, mining, and a sustainable salmon fishery

Wasn't McCain initially trying to pitch Sarah Palin as some sort of maverick who stands up to Alaska's dirty industries on matters of principle? Whatever. According to an excellent post by Barry Estabrook on Gourmet magazine's blog, Sarah Barracuda has been baring her fangs on behalf of Alaska's mining industry, even when its actions imperil what Estabrook calls "one of the world's largest and most sustainable wild salmon fisheries." According to Estabrook, Palin openly defied a state law prohibiting governors from lobbying for or against ballot initiatives -- in order to publicly denounce a proposal that would have limited the …


Whole Foods signs deal to pay up for Florida tomatoes

Natural foods giant agrees to penny-per-pound raise for farmworkers

I reported a few days ago that a deal was imminent; now it's official: Whole Foods has signed an agreement with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers to pay an extra penny-per-pound for Florida tomatoes. The raise will go directly into the pockets of some of the lowest-paid workers in the United States. In addition, the press release states, Whole Foods is working with the CIW to create a "domestic purchasing program to help guarantee transparent, ethical and responsible sourcing and production." The natural foods giant already has such a program in place for products it buys from developing countries. The …


Newest iPod nano is ‘toxic free’

The newly unveiled update of the iPod nano is slender and sexy, equipped with "shake-to-shuffle" capability, and eco-friendly to boot. (Well, you don't actually have to boot it ... oh, whatever.) Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who is alive and kicking despite reports to the contrary, says the music player is Apple's "cleanest" and most "toxic free" offering. The device contains no arsenic, brominated flame retardants, mercury, or PVC, says Jobs, and is "highly recyclable." Apple has agreed to keep flame retardants and PVC out of all of its products after Jan. 1, 2009, and that's music to our ears.