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Retire your carbon, offset your guilt

Carbon Retirement sees opportunity in European allowances

Carbon Retirement -- you read it here first (or maybe second). I don't normally endorse individual companies. But I have long thought European allowances were the best alternative to offsets and am delighted someone has made a business out of it. The business opportunity is clear -- offsets suck. At a policy level, they can destroy the environmental value of climate legislation. At a personal level, lots of vendors are selling very dubious offsets, including CCX. I can't imagine why you would waste your money on the most popular offsets, trees (certainly not a Northern forest -- heck, even offset …

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Western states unveil draft cap-and-trade scheme

The Western Climate Initiative has unveiled a draft proposal for a regional cap-and-trade program that would kick off in 2012. The 11 states and provinces involved -- Arizona, British Columbia, California, Manitoba, Montana, New Mexico, Ontario, Oregon, Quebec, Utah, and Washington -- would impose an as-yet-determined greenhouse-gas emissions limit on industries and utilities, then allow laggards to purchase carbon credits from those that cleaned up their acts. States and provinces would decide individually whether to freely hand out credits or to auction them. Reactions to the draft proposal were mixed; industries craved more detail, while environmentalists expressed concern that companies …

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No icebergs required

Smart economic development policy for the 21st century

The following is an elaborated version of the brief talk I gave at my Netroots Nation panel. The U.S. economy is in serious trouble, mired in a period of slow growth and high prices -- i.e., stagflation. Worse, high prices can largely be traced to escalating fossil fuel costs that are almost certain to continue rising for the foreseeable future. Our trade debt is enormous, as we, in Gore's words, borrow money from China to buy oil from Saudi Arabia. We're shedding jobs -- according to economist Dean Baker, it's increasingly possible that total job growth under eight years of …

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Feds rush to weaken workplace safety rules on toxics before term ends

The Bush administration is trying to push through a new workplace safety rule to weaken workers' protections against toxic chemicals before Bush's term ends, according to The Washington Post. The rule, which has not been made public, would mandate a reevaluation of the methods used to measure risks to workers from toxic exposure in the workplace. The rule would also require the U.S. Department of Labor to entertain additional challenges to its risk assessments before establishing new limits on exposure to chemicals. So far, work on the proposal has reportedly been fast-tracked and has been conducted largely in secret, drawing …

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Bush admin proposes low royalty rates in push for U.S. oil-shale development

The Bush administration proposed rules [PDF] for U.S. oil shale development Tuesday that include charging lower royalty rates for oil-shale production on public lands than it does for other oil and gas drilling. The lower royalties are meant to encourage oil-shale production since, as it turns out, the energy- and pollution-intensive process of cooking rocks before pumping out the resulting oil is still up to three times more expensive than extracting already-liquid oil. "It is basically recognition that in the beginning there has to be a lower royalty to recognize the pioneering nature of this business," said the executive director …

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World Bank overstates commitment to environment, says internal watchdog

The World Bank overstates its commitment to financing sustainability-minded projects in developing countries and should greatly improve its efforts, according to an internal review. Official estimates hold that the bank put $59 billion into environment-focused projects between 1990 and 2007; while the bank's coding system makes it difficult to figure out specifics, the Independent Evaluation Group review estimates that perhaps only $18.2 billion was allocated to projects at least 80 percent environmentally focused. In addition, the review says, long-run sustainability concerns are often given short shrift; good green intentions may not carried out on the ground; and administrative priorities and …

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Author Elizabeth Royte chats about the bottled-water boom and backlash

Elizabeth Royte.Photo: Rod MorrisonJournalist Elizabeth Royte drinks tap water, but she spends a lot of time thinking about the bottled kind. In her new book, Bottlemania: How Water Went on Sale and Why We Bought It, Royte investigates the causes and consequences of the bottled-water industry's astounding growth. With her refillable water bottle in hand, Royte travels to Fryeburg, Maine, where a water-pumping operation for Nestle's Poland Spring label divides the town. In the course of her research, she also tastes fancy bottled waters with a water connoisseur, monitors her eight-year-old daughter's water intake, and conducts an informal poll of …

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Consumers tiring of ads with sketchy eco-claims

As every business and its mom tries to get in on the eco-friendly craze -- actual recent press release to hit our inbox: "Portable hot tubs go green!" -- consumers seem to be tiring of omnipresent greenwashing, say analysts. "After 18 months, levels of concern on any issue tend to drop off," says Jonathan Banks of market research company Nielsen. "I fear that something similar may happen with this." Britain's Advertising Standards Authority says that in 2007, it received 561 complaints from consumers about greenwashing in 410 ads; in 2006, it received a mere 117 complaints about 86 ads. The …

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New Nature Conservancy prez chats about jumping from Goldman Sachs to the green scene

The stereotypes of biz-begrudging enviros and planet-pillaging business leaders were upended years ago. These days, green groups and corporations team up on everything from preserving land to pushing for climate regulations. Now, in the latest example of cross-pollination, they're even swapping executives. Mark Tercek Photo: Mark Godfrey/The Nature Conservancy Mark Tercek, who took the helm of The Nature Conservancy this week, spent more than two decades as an investment banker and managing director at Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs. In recent years, he oversaw the company's Environmental Strategy Group and Center for Environmental Markets, and pioneered Goldman's sustainability initiative, which …

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Major U.S. cities ranked by relative walkability

Software company Front Seat has released a ranking of the most walkable U.S. cities, rating the relative distance to and density of businesses like grocery stores, bars, book stores, and coffee shops to calculate an overall walkability score. San Francisco took top honors, followed by New York City, Boston, Chicago, and Philadelphia; the lowest scoring cities were Jacksonville, Fla.; Nashville; Charlotte, N.C.; Indianapolis; and Oklahoma City. The rankings also singled out the nation's most walkable neighborhoods, with Tribeca, Little Italy, and Soho in NYC placing first. "It's both healthy for the Earth and for humans to be able to walk …