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Two of world’s richest men visit Canadian oil sands

The richest and third-richest men in the world made a surprise visit to an oil-sands operation in the Canadian province of Alberta on Monday. Investor Warren Buffett and Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who are said to have a combined worth of $120 billion, "were exercising curiosity, basically saying, 'Wow, this is neat,'" says Greg Stringham of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. Buffett has recently said he is interested in investing in oil sands; he invests in American oil company ConocoPhillips, which owns significant oil sands assets. If the bigwigs are interested in investing in alternatives to conventional oil, we …

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Monsanto finds a buyer for its rBGH business

Pharma giant Lilly snaps up Posilac for ‘at least’ $300 million

A week or so ago, commenting on news that Monsanto was looking to unload its much-despised bovine-growth-hormone business, I offered this nugget of wisdom: Whatever company buys it probably won't have Monsanto's deep pockets. Hmmm. What's that word again? Oh, yeah -- W-R-O-N-G. (Hat tip to Jill of La Vida Locavore.) Today, Monsanto announced that Eli Lilly, one of the biggest of the Big Pharma companies, had bought Posilac (brand name for rBGH) for $300 million. AP reports that Monsanto could get additional cash for Posilac down the road, if it turns out to be a winner for Lilly. And …

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Mayor has big clean-energy goals for NYC

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg touted clean energy Tuesday at, aptly, the National Clean Energy Summit. He said his city has issued a formal request to companies for ideas on how to source electricity from the wind, sun, and waves. "Perhaps companies will want to put wind farms atop our bridges and skyscrapers, or use the enormous potential of powerful offshore winds miles out in the Atlantic Ocean," Bloomberg said, adding, "I think it would be a thing of beauty if, when Lady Liberty looks out on the horizon, she not only welcomes new immigrants but lights their way …

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The SUV bubble

No schadenfreude over the death of SUVs

You know your product is in trouble when the housing analogies come out: The market for sport utility vehicles is starting to look a lot like the housing market, spreading pain to consumers, automakers and dealers ... I am not sure this post qualifies as schadenfreude -- since that has been defined as "largely unanticipated delight in the suffering of another which is cognized as trivial and/or appropriate." There is nothing unanticipated about high oil prices. That is, the death of SUVs isn't like, say, Martha Stewart going to jail. What has happened to SUVs -- "Sales of SUVs are …

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South Central Community Farm: Not dead yet

In L.A., Mayor Villaraigosa plays footsie with Forever 21 over site of former farm

Photo: loudtiger When I lived in New York City, I used to marvel at the weeds that would force their way up through sidewalk cracks. What a will to live, I thought: From clumps of dirt crammed between concrete slabs, these vigorous shoots fended off the hard, slapping heels of a thousand rushing city dwellers, just to claim a place in the sun. The effort to save South Central Community Farm in Los Angeles reminds me of those defiant survivors. Stepped on by the city, evicted two ago years by a developer who gained title to the land in a …

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Globalization death watch, part III

Either we’ll be green or we’ll be poor

The United States trade deficit is threatening to upend globalization as we've known it. The rise in the price of oil has been leading to a similar result: an international trading system in which there is much less trading. Now, that may actually be a good thing, in the long-run, but in the case of the United States it might happen in a very chaotic way. This problem that has been accelerating since George W. Bush took office: The United States has been buying many more goods than it has been selling. As I hope to explain, eventually this will …

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Google.org invests in geothermal energy

Google.org, the philanthropic arm of the search giant, has announced a $10.25 million investment in geothermal energy technology. The money will back two start-up companies that specialize in enhanced geothermal systems (EGS), the process of pumping water underground to crack hot rocks and use the resulting steam to power a turbine and create electricity. "EGS could be the 'killer app' of the energy world," says Dan Reicher of Google.org. "It has the potential to deliver vast quantities of power 24/7 and be captured nearly anywhere on the planet. And it would be a perfect complement to intermittent sources like solar …

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Electric-car visionary would overhaul the way we get around

Could the global auto infrastructure be overhauled in a way that's profitable for business, cheap for drivers, and easy on the planet? Meet Better Place's Shai Agassi and his plans for an electric-car future, featured in the latest issue of Wired. In Agassi's vision, gas stations are replaced with omnipresent recharging spots for electric cars. Vehicles are cheap, perhaps even free; money is made off electricity, and renewable energy is incentivized. Drivers purchase electricity on subscription, paying for unlimited miles, a certain number of miles per month, or pay-as-you-go. No time to recharge? Head to your nearest battery exchange station …

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Grassroots globalization

Dean’s Beans founder on the good effects of trade

On my pet topic of how business is creating grassroots good in the world, here's a great interview [mp3] from Corporate Watchdog Radio with the founder of Dean's Beans, a fair trade coffee company. Dean Cycon travels to the coffee-lands and meets directly with the communities he buys from. He's building (global) community and raising standards of living via long distance trade, and the company has been profitable from day one, so that's a real success story. His stories in this segment about how other retailers manage their fair trade programs, though, can be sobering. This is a solid listen …

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Chamber cheap shot

Study claims shareholder and climate activism are bad for stock prices

You know that an organizing tactic which targets business practices is effective when the U.S. Chamber of Commerce opens its big yap about it. Recent actions getting these guys' attention include activist shareholders at a recent Bank of America shareholder meeting decrying its coal investments, including mountaintop removal, and a resolution supported by Dow Chemical shareholder heavies like TIAA-CREF and NYC Pension Funds (in part thanks to their members and Amnesty International activists alike clamoring for it), asking the company to address the festering environmental and social ills of the Bhopal incident. The Chamber has in the past loudly questioned …