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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 …

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The economics of power plant construction

A brief primer on variable vs. fixed costs

For those of us in the power industry, media discussions of the economics of power generation reveal an almost complete misunderstanding of how power is priced. Depending on our vested interests, we may find this either frustrating or beneficial -- but in all cases, it's false. Herewith I attempt to explain from whence the confusion arises -- and why it is so critical for the clean energy community to understand this math and its consequences ... and to more accurately articulate the economics of those options we prefer. Costs, prices, and pro-formas The cost of power, the price of power, …

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Nice gigawatt if you can get it

Low-carbon energy solutions in India may depend on Tata

Amid analysis of the G8's latest climate pronouncement, the announcement of India's first national climate action plan received less attention than it otherwise might have. Even in the Indian media, the plan was also overshadowed by the release of a McKinsey & Co. report that projects massive power demand growth in the country -- 100 gigawatts more demand in the next 10 years than previously estimated. Yet the very same day, the government's Investment Commission called the "Ultra-Mega" coal plants that are central to India's strategy to meet that demand a "main reason for persistent capacity shortfalls." As reported by …

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Aviation industry is into greening, to an extent

The aviation industry talked up greenness Wednesday at the world's biggest air show in Farnborough, England. At a sustainability summit, Giovanni Bisignani of the International Air Transport Association called climate change an "emergency situation" and said airlines are the best suited to address it: "No other industry is as responsible, united, and ambitious." Indeed, the industry is gung-ho about designing more fuel-efficient aircraft; the Airbus A380 and Boeing 787, both coming down the pike, are being touted as the most fuel-efficient airplanes yet. But Big Air remains unenthusiastic about a European Union plan to include airlines in its emissions-trading scheme, …

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Wal-Mart, mining companies team up to trace path of jewelry supply chain

Retail giant Wal-Mart is joining with Conservation International as well as mining companies Rio Tinto and Newmont Mining to launch a pilot project that lets customers trace the path of their jewelry from mine to mega-store. Marketed as Wal-Mart's "Love, Earth" brand jewelry, the items stand out from others in that once they're purchased, customers can go to the Love, Earth website, plug in the tag number from their jewelry item and see what mine it came out of and the path it traveled from refiner to manufacturer to retailer. Wal-Mart has been marketing Love, Earth items as more eco-friendly, …

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New business coalition wants cheaper energy, stat

A group of businesses has kicked off a new campaign with the goal of making energy cheaper by whatever means possible. The new Coalition for Affordable American Energy -- not to be confused with, ahem, the existing Coalition for Clean Affordable Energy or Coalition for Affordable and Reliable Energy -- is backed by various business associations, including the Business Roundtable, National Association of Manufacturers, and U.S. Chamber of Commerce. "It is not our intention to enter the debate on specific policies at the 'micro' level in great detail," said a letter sent to business associations last week. But the group …