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The Western Climate Initiative’s first proposal ducks biggest climate problem

The Western Climate Initiative is a path-breaking effort. Insufficient federal progress prompted seven states and two provinces to join together to reduce climate pollution by means of an economy-wide cap-and-trade program. It's a momentous opportunity, and many folks have been working hard to ensure that it's a success. Unfortunately, there's now cause for serious concern. Yesterday evening, WCI released its draft proposal (PDF). It proposes an initial cap that would cover less than half of the region's total emissions. Most surprisingly, WCI does not recommend including emissions from transportation fuels, by far the largest source of climate pollution in the …

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As energy, healthcare, and feed costs skyrocket, organic dairy farmers get squeezed

The following is a guest post by Ed Maltby, executive director of the Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance. ----- Deerfield, Mass.: What is more important to Stonyfield Farm and HP Hood, market share or the health and welfare of their organic family farmers? Photo: iStockphoto If you ask 24-year-old Mark Ouellette Jr., who supplies organic milk to HP Hood that is sold under the Stonyfield label, his answer is very clear: market share. "I'm losing up to 60 cents per gallon producing milk for the Stonyfield brand. I've used up my line of credit, I'm close to maxing out my …

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Startup company makes thin-film solar cells via new process

Solar company Konarka has announced that it successfully developed a new process to manufacture solar cells that could lead to a range of new solar-powered products and applications. The solar cells are made without silicon and are manufactured into a thin, light film via an inkjet printer, which means they don't need to be born in a clean room like traditional silicon cells. One drawback to the new cells is their efficiency: while regular silicon solar cells achieve efficiencies of up to 20 percent, the new cells are only 5 percent efficient, but Konarka says they're likely to be less …

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Bush’s refusal to consider clean technologies could be repeated by McCain

So, who said: With $55 oil we don't need incentives to oil and gas companies to explore. There are plenty of incentives. Yes, that would be our president, three years ago. And yet with oil at nearly twice that price, Bush still refuses to cut subsidies and shift that money to clean technologies. And he still claims that the solution to our energy and climate problems is "technology, technology, technology, blah, blah." But, as we've seen, that is all just rhetoric or sleight of hand. Daniel J. Weiss, Director of Energy Strategy at the Center for American Progress, has an …

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Years after everyone else, GM and Toyota execs skeptical about hydrogen cars

That Saturday Night Live-esque headline was inspired by a story in The Wall Street Journal yesterday: Top executives from General Motors Corp. and Toyota Motor Corp. Tuesday expressed doubts about the viability of hydrogen fuel cells for mass-market production in the near term and suggested their companies are now betting that electric cars will prove to be a better way to reduce fuel consumption and cut tailpipe emissions on a large scale. Really? Hydrogen cars of dubious viability? Who ever could have guessed that in a million years? And electric cars are "a better way to reduce fuel consumption and …

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Bank of America can’t make the call in green buildings

Bank of America says that energy-efficient windows in its newer buildings are blocking cell-phone signals.

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If deals go through, three firms will own 90 percent of the U.S. beef market

In Meat Wagon, we round up the latest outrages from the meat and livestock industries. You'd be hard-pressed to find an industry more consolidated than beef-packing. Just four companies slaughter 83.5 percent of cows consumed in the United States. In standard antitrust theory, a market stops being competive when the four biggest players control 40 percent. The beef industry's extraordinary concentration gives the Big Four massive leverage to dictate how beef is raised and sold. Their economies of scale give them power to squeeze their smaller competitors, who have to scramble to keep costs down to survive. Their suppliers, known …

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New survey of U.K. youth reveals mixed attitudes about the future of the planet

Ben Tuxworth, communications director at Forum for the Future, writes a monthly column for Gristmill on sustainability in the U.K. and Europe. Debates about how we should save the planet tend to explore the impossibility of almost every approach until someone says, "We need to change the education system," at which point it is deemed churlish to snigger. Catch 'em young, and it's job done seems to be the hope. Well, with only 100 months of planet-saving time left, according to Greenpeace, this approach has worked as much as it is ever likely to. So, are the young going to …

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New company wants to seed ocean with iron to sequester carbon

Weeks after ocean-seeding company Planktos bit the iron dust, a startup called Climos is plowing ahead with a similar business plan: seed the ocean with iron dust to stimulate the growth of CO2-gobbling plankton, then sell offsets for the sequestered carbon. Climos has announced $3.5 million in venture capital and is backed by reputable investors: Tesla Chair (née Pay-Pal cofounder) Elon Musk and venture-capital firm Braemar Energy Ventures. Climos CEO Dan Whaley says his company differs from Planktos in that it will have a science-oriented approach, expert managerial team, and "all-star cast" of experienced scientists. Whether it can avoid the …

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Federal loan program for coal-fired power plants suspended amid climate, cost concerns

A federal loan program for coal-fired power plants in rural areas has been suspended due to concerns over climate change and the costs of the program. The Rural Utilities Service, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, issued $1.3 billion in loans to coal plants since 2001 under the program. However, RUS officials said costs for new coal-fired power plants have been rising at about 30 percent a year. The White House Office of Management and Budget asked for the suspension following congressional inquiries last month. "This is a big decision," said Abigail Dillen of Earthjustice. "It says new coal …