Business & Technology

Sales figured

Survey finds Americans still want earth-friendly products during recession

A survey released Wednesday confirms that Americans remain interested in buying environmentally responsible products even during the recession. Conducted by Boston communications firm Cone Inc., the finding is the latest in a string of surveys drawing cheery conclusions about green spending. According to Cone, about 34 percent of 1,087 adult consumers said they are more likely to buy green-leaning products in the current economic climate, while 44 percent said their environmental shopping habits have not changed because of the economy. Only eight percent said they were less likely to buy earth-friendly products due to the downturn. The survey — whose …

Meat Wagon: Layoffs at the factory farm

Farmers take the hit as the CAFO model comes under pressure

In Meat Wagon, we round up the latest outrages from the meat and livestock industries. ----- The industrial meat giants have entered a crisis phase. As I've reported before, the world's biggest chicken packer, Pilgrim's Pride, is languishing in bankruptcy, squeezed by high feed costs, its own addiction to cheap capital from Wall Street, now dried up, and ruthless competition from rival Tyson. Facing a similar situation, Smithfield Foods, the globe's biggest pork packer and hog producer, announced it's shuttering six plants and hacking away 1,800 jobs. Pilgrim's Pride has deftly used its bankruptcy to shunt much if the pain onto the backs of its farmer-suppliers, The Wall Street Journal reports (see extremely interesting related video). The article shows the massive risks required of the farmers who supply the nation with meat. Get this:

The CAFO syndrome

An interview with Mia MacDonald on China's growing appetite for U.S.-style meat production

Mia MacDonald. Photo: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Old MacDonald had a farm -- one resounding with oinks and moos and squawks. By today's standards, the old man's farm would count as a model of biodiversity. Researcher Mia MacDonald points out that across the planet, old ways of farming are giving way to the environmentally devastating factory farms we've pioneered in the West -- typically housing a single species of animal, confined by the thousands in conditions that would be alien to Old MacDonald's pigs and cows and chickens. For modern industrial-scale animal farms, the proper literary form is the scathing environmental report, not the children's ditty. At Brighter Green, an action think tank that helps advocacy groups take informed action through research and analysis, MacDonald is currently at work on a series of case studies on the spread of factory-style farming across the globe. She's cutting straight to the chase: China, the world's biggest nation, is the subject of the first case study. I caught up with Mia to discuss Brighter Green's new report, "Skillful Means: The Challenges of China's Encounter with Factory Farming" [PDF], which delves into China, meat, and the connection with our climate.

Green Light: All up in my bus-ness

A zero-emission bus tours California, Toyota flirts with ethanol, and more green auto news

Thursday in San Francisco, it was easier to get an electric bus than an electric car. Proterra, a commercial hybrid- and electric-vehicle manufacturer in Golden, Colo., finished its weeklong California clean bus tour in the city by the bay. The sleek EcoRide BE35 climbed the hills of San Francisco, flaunting its environmental and fiscal charms before California municipal and transit stakeholders. Getting bus-y? Proterra’s EcoRide BE35. Why California? Besides being the ultimate destination for fair-weather roadtrips, the California Air Resources Board mandated that 15 percent of all municipal urban bus fleets purchased for the 2012 model-year and beyond must consist …

Dell to pay

Computer maker expands recycling efforts

PC giant Dell today continues its campaign to be the world’s greenest technology company by rolling out a pair of new recycling programs. The company is adding six states to its partnership with Goodwill Industries that lets customers drop off unwanted electronic devices for recycling at Goodwill retail stories. The network of 1,100-some collection points in 18 states accepts gear of any brand, as long as it’s an item Dell manufactures (computers and printers, for example, but not TVs). Reconnectpartnership.com has a list of dropoff locations. “Today we’re making it even easier for environmentally-conscious customers to do the right thing,” …

Going with the wind

ITC to build $12B in wind farm power lines, JCSP study finds $50B savings from wind

Wind power is coming of age as the U.S. becomes the global wind leader and probably the biggest source of new jobs in the energy industry. ITC Holdings announced Monday plans to build a $10 to $12 billion power transmission network to move 12,000 megawatts of electricity from the Dakotas, Minnesota, and Iowa to the Chicago area. ITC called the plan, depicted above, the Green Power Express, saying it could: result in a reduction of up to 34 million metric tons of carbon emissions, which is equivalent to the annual emissions of about seven to nine 600 MW coal plants. ITC made its announcement the same day a major study, the Joint Coordinated System Plan, was released by the Midwest grid operator and other U.S. regional grid managers was released. It concluded that to increase wind power to 20 percent of electricity production by 2024 (requiring some 230 GW of wind) would require some 15,000 miles of new transmission costing $80 billion. The total cost of the wind would be some $1 trillion. The WSJ reports this as "New Grid for Renewable Energy Could Be Costly." But in fact the study found that "increasing wind's share to 20 percent of U.S. power production would yield annual net savings of $12 billion annually by 2024 based on wind's low production cost compared to the fossil plants the turbines would replace," as Energy Daily (sub. req'd) explained. Moreover, JCSP projects that the 20 percent scenario would save 3 billion tons of carbon over the next 16 years, which would generate in 2024 an annual value of some $40 billion a year at carbon prices comparable to that which the European Union has seen over the past year -- and several times that if the price of carbon to reaches levels needed to stabilize at 450 ppm. One reason I say wind power has come of age is because the announcement and the study don't come from your traditional pro-wind trade groups or think tanks. Far from it.

Deception by omission (of emissions)

FCC and FTC need to hold 'clean coal' ads accountable to reality

As viewers of PBS and the major network and cable channels know too well, the onslaught of "clean coal" advertisements over the past year has reached a tipping point. In the face of the actual news headlines, the relentless barrage of television daydreams about coal's zero carbon dioxide emissions and the coal industry's fanciful role in environmental protection and job security seem more like bad reruns from the era of "Father Knows Best" than any hope for a clean energy future. "Clean" coal? How about a little truth in advertising? Perhaps it's time for the Federal Trade Commission or Federal Communications Commission to hold the coal industry's public relations campaign to acceptable standards. Don't they watch the news? In the last month alone, viewers have had to juggle the reality of news reports on toxic coal ash spills in Tennessee and Alabama, coal waste-polluted watersheds in West Virginia and Illinois, mining accidents and coal dust explosions in Kentucky and Wisconsin, mountaintop removal and devastated communities throughout Appalachia, tragic strip mining on Native lands in Arizona, and several state initiatives to halt the construction of carbon dioxide and mercury emission-spewing coal-fired plants. And the state of Montana, like the U.S. Air Force, just shot down proposals for the coal-to-liquid boondoggle. The news ain't over.

Prospects for climate/energy action, III

The players: Business, labor, advocates, and the public

Big business It was once accurate to speak of the business lobby in the U.S. as a monolithic and implacable opponent of government action to restrict carbon or disturb the dominance of dirty energy and carbon-intensive manufacturing. That’s no longer quite true. A number of things have changed. For one thing, the country has been absolutely bled of heavy manufacturing, which has shifted the dynamic in at least three ways: manufacturing states are desperate for an infusion of new industry, and clean energy is virtually the only candidate; what jobs are left are mostly service jobs (think installing solar panels) …

14 Green Couples

It seems everyone’s going green these days — but some couples are doubly committed to the cause. In honor of Valentine’s Day, we take a look at 14 prominent pairs who share a certain planetary passion. Brad and Angie Yes, the ever-expanding footprint of this family might raise a few eco-eyebrows, but they make up for it by, oh: green-rebuilding New Orleans, funding a wildlife sanctuary in Cambodia to the tune of $5 million, narrating a PBS series on green design, supporting Haiti’s Clean Streets Project, partnering with an eco-cosmetics company to raise funds for charity, and buying an organic …