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Business & Technology


Who owns your tomato?

Another big horticultural seed company bought by Monsanto

When Monsanto buys into a market, they buy in big. In 2005, Monsanto's seed/genetic trait holdings were primarily in corn, cotton, soybeans, and canola. That year, they purchased Seminis, the world's largest vegetable seed company (see And We Have the Seed) specializing in seed for vegetable field crops. Now their takeover of the vegetable seed sector continues, as they have announced the intent to purchase the Dutch breeding and seed company, De Ruiter Seeds. This purchase diversifies Monsanto's seed holdings in vegetable field crops (Seminis) to "protected culture" fruits and vegetables (primarily tomatoes and cucurbits produced greenhouse, hothouse, etc). Analysts …


IMF report says economic costs of climate-change action negligible

The International Monetary Fund said in a report released today that sharply reducing the world's carbon emissions will cost relatively little economically if a carbon-pricing scheme is adopted soon that includes all the major-emitting countries. The report didn't endorse one specific pricing mechanism, but said that either a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system could work if it gradually increased the price of carbon. "There are significant risks from climate change; damages could be severe," said IMF economist Natalia Tamirisa. "The costs of mitigation could be moderate provided that policies are well designed." Meanwhile, at the ongoing United Nations climate …



The Big Lump gets thumped

King Coal’s year of rejection by banks, judges, and a lot of other folks

Earth Policy Institute just released this revelatory chronology of really sad, horrible, and depressing events in the life of the coal industry since February 2007. What's next -- will Santa be switching to lumps of dirt? Feb. 26, 2007: James Hansen, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies and a leading climate scientist, calls for a moratorium on the construction of coal-fired power plants that do not sequester carbon, saying that it makes no sense to build these plants when we will have to "bulldoze" them in a few years. Feb. 26, 2007: Under mounting pressure from environmental groups, …


Van Jones on Colbert Report

Am I the only one who just doesn't much like the Colbert Report? The interviews, especially. Colbert always comes off like a dickhead -- that's his shtick -- but the guests are in a catch-22 as well. They look bad if they play along and bad if they try to play it straight. It just ends up being awkward and conveying virtually no information. Why bother? Jon Stewart is a notorious pitcher of softballs, but at least he actually tries to engage his guests.


When does additionality matter? Part 3

Almost always, but the reason is more subtle than you think

In two previous posts, I've attempted to establish that additionality is neither some strange concept relevant only to carbon offsets nor an awkward patch used to fix a defect in the design of carbon markets. Rather, the concept of additionality is applicable to any incentive system, whether subsidy, tax, or whatever. The real question is what degree of additionality is actually necessary or desirable in any given system. Put another way, when should we care enough about additionality to incur the costs of measuring and enforcing it? Those costs can be quite high, and the benefits sometimes uncertain. Let's return …


Hoffert and Pielke: <del>Best Friends</del> Breakthrough Fellows Forever

Shame on Nature for quoting Hoffert on behalf of Pielke without noting they’re colleagues!

Suppose the prestigious journal Nature published an analysis of mine that they knew many people would disagree with. How would you feel if Nature then ran accompanying commentaries for and against my analysis, including another Senior Fellow from the Center for American Progress raving about how important and brilliant it was? You'd probably think that was kind of lame of them. Now suppose the Nature article never mentioned that I was a CAP Senior Fellow or that my mysterious admirer was, too. No way, you say. No way a journal like Nature would ever do that. That would be like …


New Mattel line lets you wear Barbie’s discards

We are not making this up: Mattel is planning a new line of accessories made from "excess fabric and trimmings from other Barbie doll fashions and products which would otherwise be discarded." The "playful and on-trend" Barbie BCause collection -- including handbags, hats, pillows, and diaries "each featuring its own unique variations and kitschy patchwork details" -- will be sold exclusively at Toys"R"Us. Says a Mattel marketing person, "Barbie BCause is for eco-conscious girls who believe that being environmentally friendly is the right thing to do, and we are thrilled to give extra meaning and extra style to what was …


U-boat sightings

European biodiesel industry being bankrupted by loophole

They call them U-boats because they pull into a port just long enough to do a U-turn and head off to Europe. They stop just long enough to blend a touch of fuel into the tank so they can claim the government subsidy. Let's say you have a million gallons on board from, say, a palm oil plantation in Indonesia, or a soybean operation in South America. An hour or two after your arrival, your pockets are bulging with just short of a million U.S. taxpayer dollars. From the Guardian: ... the European Biodiesel Board, has uncovered the trade as …


U.S. auto sales take a nosedive

Chrysler and General Motors sold 19 percent less automobiles in the U.S. this March than they did last March, according to new sales figures. Ford reported a sales drop of 14 percent in March 2008 compared to March 2007, and even Toyota, which has reported steady sales through other hard times, reported that sales dropped 10 percent. As has been the case for a while, sales of big ol' gas guzzlers (relied upon by American companies) decreased, while sales of smaller, daintier-sipping vehicles were steadier. High gas prices, a weak economy, and the credit crunch are taking their toll, and …