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Business & Technology


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 …


Nissan wants to offer you an electric car by 2010

Nissan wants to bring electric cars to the U.S. and Japan by 2010 and to the world by 2012, the automaker announced Tuesday. Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn in 2005 called gas-electric hybrids "niche products," but he's changed his tune, declaring that his company is determined to demonstrate "zero-emission-vehicle leadership." While General Motors and Toyota also have plans to bring electric vehicles to market, Nissan is the first to say it will mass-produce affordable, all-electric cars on a global scale. "We are not interested in some 'Stars Wars' prototype," says Ghosn, "but in really bringing a mass market product that everybody …


Eco-parents unimpressed by ‘green’ Barbie accessories

Barbie BCause, toymaker Mattel's attempt to appeal to the green-minded tyke, has turned out to be not so popular with green-minded parents. The line of patchwork-y Barbie accessories made from cast-off fabric has inspired a blogging backlash. "The eco-conscious young girls I know of steer clear of Barbie," wrote Jennifer Lance on blog Eco Child's Play. "Truly green families will not be fooled by Mattel's greenwashing." Mother Jones blogger Jen Phillips agreed that touting Barbie BCause as green is "pretty ironic given that Barbie dolls themselves are made out of plastic and are packaged in even more plastic." And that's …


Chastised by bloggers, Dell aims to cut down on waste

To paraphrase Margaret Mead: "Never doubt that a small group of loud, critical bloggers can change Dell's packaging M.O." OK, that's a bit of a stretch -- and we won't go so far as to say "Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." But photos published on the internet during Earth Week of a tiny flash drive arriving to a customer in a giant box provoked enough outcry in the blogosphere that Dell is taking immediate steps to reduce packaging waste. The company has sent a directive requesting that envelopes be used for small items, and plans to reduce …


Five bucks a gallon?

Goldman says oil ‘likely’ to hit $150-$200 by 2010

Goldman Sachs' Arjun N. Murti said this in a May 5 report: The possibility of $150-$200 per barrel seems increasingly likely over the next 6-24 months, though predicting the ultimate peak in oil prices as well as the remaining duration of the upcycle remains a major uncertainty. That would mean gasoline prices of $5 to $6 a gallon. Unless, of course, we permanently suspend the gasoline tax, in which case gasoline prices would only be $5 to $6 a gallon. Why should we listen to Murti? Well, back in 2005, when prices averaged under $60 a barrel, he was one …


Straight as a circle

Big Oil’s crooked talk on profits

Has the oil industry borrowed the (laughable) tagline of presidential candidate John McCain? As Fox Business reported last Friday: The American Petroleum Institute took out a full-page ad in USA Today, and other major media were tapped this week to provide "straight talk on earnings." The earnings that need "straight talk": ExxonMobil's $11 billion quarterly profit, and Chevron's $5.2 billion quarterly profit. (Note to Big Oil: When Fox doesn't give your spin favorable coverage, you've definitely become the Britney Spears of industries.) Apparently, the oil companies think that people will ignore their bloated profits once they see a chart showing …


I smell a hedging strategy

How much would you pay for cheap gas?

Suppose you're a commodity trader. Someone offers you a future contract to buy gasoline at $2.99/gallon for the next three years. If you think that you can sell that gasoline for more than that, you might think this is a license to print money, and would therefore pay for that privilege. Which raises the following questions: How much would you pay for that future "strip"? Is the answer to Question 1 more or less than a Chrysler?


Big biz ranked on greenness

Takeaways from a new ranking of eco-friendly practices in big biz: Consumer companies are getting greener, but there's plenty of ground to gain. In its second annual scorecard, nonprofit Climate Counts ranked 56 companies on their measurement, reduction, and disclosure of greenhouse gases. Eighty-four percent of the companies scored higher this year than they did in 2007, but the average score was still only 40 out of a possible 100. At the top of the list were Nike with 82, Stonyfield Farm with 78, and IBM with 77; Google was most improved, jumping from 17 points in 2007 to 55 …