Business & Technology

How much is that brainwashing in the window?

Our addiction to cheap stuff has become very expensive, new book argues

American retail is riddled with cheap, fall-apart merchandise. We know this. Sales are a ploy to get a shopper to spend, as opposed to a boon for penny pinchers. Right. And how much mileage do we get from that old, overused adage, “You get what you pay for”? More than we’d like to admit. So why is Ellen Ruppel Shell’s new book, Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture, so shocking? Shell deftly weaves a compelling, cautionary tale out of disparate strands: the psychology of manipulating shoppers, the environmental costs of our lust for inexpensive things, the deskilling of the …

How to Make Green Conferences Feel Less Like Capital Punishment

Sustainability conferences can be boring and terrible

If you’re reading this post, you know that sustainability conferences are now so ubiquitious that you can’t swing a cat without hitting one. This is so cool–because it means the word is getting out big time. But as is my nature, I find myself massively dissatisfied by most (though not all) events, which typically bore the crap out of me. (An exception was a recent “Green Boot Camp” put on at Harvard by Living Cities, the goal of which was to actually figure out how to implement deep energy retrofits in buildings. It rocked becuase it tried hard to solve …

NAM spam

National Association of Manufacturers claims climate bill would crush economy

In shocking news, water is still wet, the sky is still blue, and the National Association of Manufacturers is still predicting economic catastrophe if the United States acts against climate change. NAM, in partnership with the American Council for Capital Formation, released a new study on Wednesday of the climate and energy bill that the House passed in June, better known as Waxman-Markey. They predict that the “anti-energy, anti-growth, and anti-jobs bill” will “destroy growth.” “Higher energy costs are bad for manufacturers and the 12 million Americans who work in the manufacturing sector,” said Jay Timmons, executive vice president of …

Trees in the bank

Pacific NW landowners team up to market forest offsets

Owners of forestland in the Pacific NW could benefit more under a national carbon offsets system, as trees common to the region store more carbon per acre than East Coast species. Pictured: Douglas firs in an Oregon forest.Courtesy Ecotrust’s sbeebe via FlickrThough most people probably think of national parks when they think of forests, more than half of the 750 million acres of forestland in the United States is actually privately owned, much of it by individuals and families, according to the American Forest Foundation, a nonprofit advocacy organization. Together, these trees suck up about 10 percent of U.S. carbon …

VICTORY

Dynegy out of the new coal business

This is the weekly post from Bruce Nilles, director of Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign. Three years ago Dynegy launched plans to partner with LS Power and become the largest new developer of coal-fired power plants.  Yesterday Dynegy officially terminated those plans, including selling its shares in a coal-fired power plant currently under construction Coal is again proving to be a bad investment.  Dynegy announced yesterday that the company is essentially going to lose $100 million as it sells its portion of the Texas Sandy Creek coal plant back to LS Power.  But they decided a $100 million loss was …

Bipartisan feebate bill introduced to Senate

Like Cash for Clunkers? You’ll love feebates!

Photo: ThreatedThoughtsIt’s now fairly widely understood that Cash for Clunkers has worked great as a stimulus program but is negligible as an emissions-reduction program. That’s fine — it did what it was supposed to do. Now that we know how well people respond to cash incentives, though, it’s time to do some deeper thinking about how to drive a large-scale shift to more fuel-efficient vehicles. Conservatives are always complaining that CAFE standards force automakers to make more fuel-efficient cars, but don’t give consumers any incentive to buy them. That’s a valid complaint. The usual response is to propose raising the …

But is it working?

Surprisingly popular Cash for Clunkers program raises hopes–and questions

This post was written by ProPublica’s Marcus Stern and Jake Bernstein. To supporters, the “cash for clunkers” program miraculously jolted the moribund car market back to life, engendering hopes that it might help revive the broader U.S. economy. Skeptics saw it differently: The automotive industry had hijacked an environmental bill and turned it into a bailout for itself with the help of the Obama administration and a Congress besotted with wishful thinking and a hair-trigger for stimulus spending. Both views may turn out to be correct. But one thing is certain. The sight of car buyers back in showrooms these …

Define 'clunker'

Cash for … other things!

So Congress approved and President Obama signed an extension of the hugely popular (and not-really-so-green) cash-for-clunkers program. Woohoo! We can think of some better “Cash for …” programs the government should be funding … Cash for computers—Think of the power savings. Not to mention the peace of a Twitter-free life. Cash for cookies—Your sweet tooth is fueling a corn overload that will topple American agriculture. Oh, and it’s making you fat. Cash for shutting up climate change deniers—Eliminate noxious hot-air emissions. Just kidding! Mostly. Cash for your ‘stache—Stop shaving. Razors and shaving cream must have some carbon impact, right? Cash …

Clarifying my position on lithium ion batteries

The limits of today’s electric car technology

Recently, there has been some blog chatter about my comments on the future of lithium ion batteries — my goal here is to clarify my stance. I do believe that these batteries have been over-hyped in terms of technology available today. However, little focus was given to my statement that Khosla Ventures is backing the technology because the “lithium-ion markets are here today. We’re investing because there are great markets.” So what kinds of technology are we investing in? I think the traditional approach to lithium ion battery making, such as A123, is going to be competing in an overheated, …