Business & Technology

Signed. Sealed. Will they deliver?

ForestEthics mails Fortune 500 companies to kick off tar-sands campaign

A tar-sands facility: oil doesn’t get any dirtier than this.At ForestEthics, persuading the world’s largest corporations to treat the Earth ethically is our bread and butter. And it often starts with a letter. Last week, we mailed letters to more than 100 Fortune 500 companies, warning that their continued consumption of fuels from Canada’s tar sands—the world’s dirtiest oil—puts their brands at risk. As ForestEthics Executive Director Todd Paglia documented in a vivid slideshow for Grist last year, the tar sands manage to combine multiple local and global environmental hazards into a single industrial project—in fact, the largest industrial project …

Bygones

Kimberly-Clark, Greenpeace hug it out

Greenpeace USA Engaging in a bit of a lovefest, Greenpeace and Kimberly-Clark announced today that the paper-products giant has finally agreed to clean up its act. It will source the fiber for its tissue products, under brand names that include Kleenex, Scott, and Cottonelle, from “environmentally responsible sources,” including those that are FSC-certified and recycled. The company has also committed to end the purchase of non-FSC fibers from Canada’s Boreal forest by 2011. For its part, Greenpeace will drop the five-year-old Kleercut campaign that has long urged Kimberly-Clark to quit destroying the Boreal just so cold-sufferers can experience a softer …

Don't Drink the Water

‘Tapped’ documentary pulls plug on bottled water craze

Only about a fifth of the plastic water bottles purchased in the United States are recycled.Courtesy producers of TAPPED.Tapped, a new documentary about the bottled water industry from director Stephanie Soechtig and the producers of Who Killed the Electric Car?, is a pretty damning look at how consumers have been tricked into spending too much money on water packaged in plastic and quite often not as clean as what’s available from the faucet. I knew bottled water sucks, but I didn’t know it sucks this much. Not only is it a clear waste of resources (only 20 percent of plastic …

Please lord, don't let it be another Segway

EEStor CEO says game-changing energy storage device coming by 2010

If the Texas company EEStor is running a scam, it’s a frakking brilliant one. For years the otherwise tight-lipped outfit has been promising a capacitor that can quickly charge, quickly discharge, and hold enormous amounts of energy — on all accounts, performance far beyond any battery on the market, or even contemplated. If it performs as promised, the EESU (Electrical Energy Storage Unit) will revolutionize the electric vehicle market. It will enable cost-effective, high-capacity storage for renewable electricity sources. It can radically increase the utility of portable electronics. It would be an honest-to-god game changer. It sounds too good to …

On EV street

Tesla speeds past financial troubles, opens retail stores across country

Five months ago, Tesla Motors appeared to be following in the footsteps of other American automakers. Lay-offs, a dearth of financing, and a spring recall of 70 percent of delivered Roadsters prompted speculation that Tesla might soon be the next casualty of the economic downturn. But Tesla proved just too cool to fail. In May, German automaker Daimler injected $50 million in the “we’re this close to profitability we promise” EV maker for a 10 percent stake and a deal for Tesla to supply the batteries for the test series of Daimler’s smart electric drive. And then in June, Uncle …

Star power

Mass. startup uses biotech smarts to take the corn out of ethanol

On Monday, the latest entrant in the biofuels sweepstakes takes the wraps off a solar-powered technology designed to transform C02 and sunlight into ethanol. “We capture the energy of the sun into a solar converter,” says Bill Sims, CEO of Cambridge, Mass.-based Joule Biotechnologies. “Inside exists a solution of brackish or gray water, nutrients and highly engineered photosynthetic organisms that directly secrete biofuels. There’s no intermediary that has to be introduced or processed.” So far, Joule’s “helioculture” technology has only produced ethanol in the lab. But, says Sims, “We’re moving the lab outside as we speak. We aren’t expecting any …

Just Tell the Truth

The eternal durability of greenwash

Not too long ago I was on a panel with GM’s VP of Environment, and I was reminded of how very old school most big corporations are when it comes to discussing their environmental programs. In GM’s case, listening to this VP, it was as if GM was God’s great gift to the environment, and always has been. In fact, despite admirable efforts to retool the company around the plug-in hybrid Chevy Volt, GM has been nothing of the sort. Actually, it’s been a death star for green, between its crappy, huge vehicles, and its gruesome and nauseating national greenwashing …

Bag it

Better ways to spend $1 million on plastics

The American Chemistry Council will spend more than $1 million to fight a 20-cent fee on plastic shopping bags in Seattle, hoping voters reject the proposal in August. Or send the Bag Monster and all his friends to Copenhagen this December!Photo by Bag Monster via FlickrIf it seems absurd to spend a cool mill defending something as ubiquitous, hard to love, and (very often) wasteful as disposable bags … consider that this trade group for the plastics industry sponsored a program to pay parents to expose their children to pesticides and allow researchers to study the effects. Before the ACC’s …

Are new nuclear plants the answer? No.

Oh, those sexy building codes: More powerful than 100 nuclear plants

Building energy codes are the key.Are 100 new nuclear plants the solution to our climate troubles? I asked that question in a post last week. The answer lies buried deep within the 1,428-page Waxman-Markey climate bill (H.R. 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act), passed by the House and now under consideration in the Senate. It is Section 201, pages 320-348. It is this section that makes H.R. 2454 worth passing. No matter what else is compromised or changed in the climate bill as it works its way through the Senate, Section 201 must not be changed or weakened. …

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