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Business & Technology


Nanotubes: the next asbestos?

Lessons from the asbestos crisis should guide the response to nanotechnology, but will they?

The story of asbestos in this country ought to serve as a cautionary tale: A seemingly miraculous fiber was widely introduced into common consumer products; only after it was already in millions of homes did the general public realize that it causes a particularly terrible form of cancer. Now, treating victims and cleaning up contaminated communities is costing billions of dollars, and thousands of people endure the toll of a debilitating and deadly disease. Nanotechnology is another innovation that promises to bring consumer products to a whole new level -- and, once again, it looks like nano products will become …


Consumers shunning hefty hybrids

Automakers may have assumed that hybrid SUVs would be a hit with the eco-minded-soccer-mom market, but drivers aren't buying it -- literally. Analysts are seeing a tepid reaction to SUVs like the Chevy Tahoe Hybrid and hybrid GMC Yukon, both launched in fall 2007. Concern about climate change and fuel prices has attached a stigma to large cars that isn't much lessened by the word "hybrid" plastered all over it, say analysts. Most consumers are flocking to smaller, more fuel-efficient cars, though original Tahoes and Yukons have also been selling significantly better than their hybrid counterparts -- likely thanks to …


Green group highlights biz innovations

The Environmental Defense Fund has produced a new report highlighting processes, products, and technologies that are making the biz world more eco-friendly. The green group's Innovations Review 2008 draws attention to developments good for both business and the environment. The report focuses specifically on innovations on the cusp: not yet widely implemented, but not still in the R&D phase. So what's on the horizon? Solar-power purchase agreements in the real-estate biz, data systems that help shipping fleets reach maximum efficiency, technological advances in teleconferencing, and much, much more.


Airline slows down to reduce emissions

Scandinavian airline SAS has found a viable way to cut down on greenhouse-gas emissions and fuel costs: fly slower. The airline has been testing slower speeds since early 2006, and says it has saved some $12 million in fuel costs since then. And have no fear about missing your connection; hitting the brakes adds mere minutes to travel time. SAS hopes that implementing the slowdown strategy throughout its fleet will boost its green image; it was also one of the first airlines to give passengers the option to offset their carbon emissions when purchasing a ticket.


Consumers in the driver's seat

It’s shifting consumer demand that will drive increases in vehicle fuel efficiency

I frequently read about perceived (or alleged) disagreements between the environmental community and the auto industry. A few of them are real disagreements over policy, many are practical disagreements over how best to achieve common goals, but many perceived disagreements are not, in fact, disagreements at all. For instance, some people believe the auto industry stands in the way of higher average fuel efficiency in the U.S. That's just not the case, which I'll explain in a moment. First, an area of agreement: in his New York Times column, Paul Krugman writes about fuel efficiency and our automotive future: Europeans …


Mazzocchi, Speth, and capitalism's future

Ted Glick on two new books that address capitalism and the environment

"Capitalism as we know it today is incapable of sustaining the environment." -- James Gustave (Gus) Speth, in The Bridge at the End of the World: Capitalism, the Environment, and Crossing from Crisis to Sustainability The Bridge at the End of the World, by James Gustave Speth "In the late 1980s, Tony was arguing that global warming might force us to fundamentally alter capitalism. He believed that the struggle against nature was the irreconcilable contradiction that would force systemic change." -- Les Leopold, in The Man Who Hated Work and Loved Labor: The Life and Times of Tony Mazzocchi I …


Toyota's foresight pays off, part two

Why hybrids beat diesels

The best thing about the Prius is that it achieves its high fuel economy without sacrificing size or performance and, most importantly for global warming, without being a diesel. There seems to be a lot of confusion on this point, so let me elaborate. Bottom Line: If you care about global warming, don't buy a diesel car (certainly not in this country), and if you must buy a diesel, only get a new one with a very good particle trap. [Does this mean that Europe's massive switch to diesel was not good for the climate? In a word,"probably."] First, diesel …


Last flight out

Richard Heinberg bids adieu to cheap flight: The airline industry has no future. The same is true for airfreight. No air carrier has a viable plan to make a profit with oil at current prices -- much less in years to come as the petroleum available to world markets dwindles rapidly. That's not to say that jetliners will disappear overnight, but rather that the cheap flights we've seen in the past will soon be fading memories. In a few years jet service will be available only to the wealthy, or to the government and military.


Obama talks up green while courting manufacturers

Barack Obama courted manufacturers in Michigan Wednesday, touting proposals to boost both green energy and the auto industry. He talked up a plan to auction carbon credits and use the funds to boost clean technology (and, in turn, green jobs), and said he would help the U.S. auto industry get back on its feet while encouraging investment in hybrids, electric vehicles, and other fuel-efficient cars. "I don't think that we need to give up on manufacturing," he told the Detroit Free Press. "We need to find new sources of manufacturing jobs. And I think creating green energy jobs and helping …


Wal-Mart tightens safety standards for toxics in toys

Wal-Mart, the world's largest toy retailer, has told its suite of suppliers that they must meet new safety standards for toxics in toys by later this year. Some 25 million toys were recalled by toy makers last year in the United States, many due to high lead levels. Wal-Mart's new standards apply to a range of toxics, including antimony, arsenic, barium, cadmium, chromium, lead, and mercury. The retailer's new lead standard for toys is more than six times as strict as current federal standards, allowing lead in concentrations of no more than 90 parts per million on toy surfaces; the …