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Is there really so much money in environmental devastation that it can’t be stopped?

In the Nov. 12 New Yorker, Elizabeth Kolbert published an article (unavailable online; abstract here) typical of her style: spare, restrained, vivid, cogent, devastating. The topic was Canada's tar sands, now being profitably exploited by the major oil companies: Shell, Conoco-Phillips, Chevron, and ExxonMobil. And they've only just begun. According to Kolbert, the oil majors intend to invest more than $75 billion over the next five years in building infrastructure to transform a little bit of Canada into fuel for our cars. "Thanks in large part to what's happening in the tar sands," Kolbert reports, "Canada has become America's No. …

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A critical issue wrapped in a dose of black helicopters

This 47 minute video on the essence of debt currency briefly touches on perhaps the critical environmental issue of the time: can anything be done about our deficits in the real world (in carbon sinks, fisheries, clean water, etc.) if we have no way to think about public policy except through the language of "what it will do to the economy"? Despite the paranoid tone, the fundamental question asked in this video is the right one: is a sustainable world even plausible if we continue to accept a monetary system that must grow without end?

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Full-cell company bought by Daimler and Ford

Ballard -- the Canadian fuel-cell company that once hoped to be the "Intel Inside of the hydrogen car revolution -- has sold off its automotive fuel-cell business to Daimler and Ford. You can listen to a good CBC radio story on it, which includes an interview of me (click on "Listen to the Current," Part 2). You can read Toronto Star columnist Tyler Hamilton on the story here. A Financial Post post piece headlines the story bluntly: "Hydrogen highway hits dead end: Ballard's talks with potential buyers is admission that dream of hydrogen fuel car is dead: analyst." The story …

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Celebrate Buy Nothing Day on Friday; no purchase necessary

Thousands of people the world over plan to celebrate what's usually the biggest shopping day of the year by ... not buying anything. That's right, it's almost time for Buy Nothing Day, celebrated Nov. 23 in the U.S. and Canada and Nov. 24 in the rest of the world, drawing attention to how easy it is to stop, drop, and not shop. The poor, the hungover, and the lazy aren't the only ones getting in on the no-buying action. Activists across the globe will be staging events at malls and sprawling superstores near you, encouraging people to take a day …

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Green products largely guilty of greenwashing, says study

A study of 1,018 "green" products from big-box stores has found that all but one were marketed with false or misleading eco-claims. Researchers from TerraChoice Environmental Marketing called out products for committing the "Six Sins of Greenwashing": a hidden tradeoff (e.g., toxin-loaded electronics touting their energy efficiency); no certifiable verification of green claims; flat-out lying about certification; vagueness (e.g., products claiming "all natural" status, which could include hazardous substances that occur naturally); irrelevance (e.g., products claiming to be CFC-free even though CFCs have long been banned); or a lesser of two evils situation (e.g. organic cigarettes). Cascade paper towels were …

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It can happen here

Recently Hale "Bonddad" Stewart, who normally writes informative posts about finance, let loose with a string of myths about manufacturing (both at Huffington Post and Daily Kos) that really got my blood boiling. Nothing like boiling blood to get those fingers moving, I always say! So I thought I would address various myths, most of which Bonddad managed to touch on. Also, I figure that some clarifications might be in order for those that read both my post on the necessity of manufacturing and Ryan Avent's spirited challenge. Bonddad's myths: a strong U.S. manufacturing base will be bad for trade, …

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80% by 2050? Try 2010.

Got a headache from all the recent back and forth over rhetoric and politics of climate change? Last week, Frito-Lay served up a refreshingly rhetoric-free reminder that the future is coming no matter what we might do to encourage (or stop) it. Under their net zero initiative, the salty snack behemoth will be taking an Arizona potato chip factory almost entirely off the grid, running it on renewable energy and recycled water. The project stands out to me mostly for what it is not: Net zero is not a demonstration project for showy or questionable new technologies. In fact, the …

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USDA orders Tyson Foods to stop using antibiotic-free labels on poultry

Tyson Foods will no longer be allowed to use its "raised without antibiotics" label that the U.S. Department of Agriculture originally approved in May, due to a mix-up at the agency and disagreement over whether a medication used in Tyson's chicken feed should be classified as an antibiotic. Tyson launched a $70 million ad campaign in June touting its fresh chicken as antibiotic-free and labeling it as such. But early this month, the USDA notified Tyson that it had made a mistake in approving the label as the agency had ignored its own longstanding policy of classifying a drug Tyson …

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Groups announce voluntary carbon standard for offset market

In an attempt to rebut accusations that buying and selling carbon offsets amounts to a whole lotta nothin', a coalition of three groups has announced new voluntary standards for the international offset market. The standard attempts to verify that money spent on carbon offsets goes directly to a project that does indeed help the climate. Says Mark Kenber of London-based nonprofit Climate Group, which helped develop the standard, "We're trying to give the basic assurance that [offset buyers are] getting what they're paying for."