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Company agrees to pay record $250 million in Superfund cleanup costs

W.R. Grace & Co. agreed to pay $250 million to reimburse the U.S. EPA for ongoing cleanup of the asbestos-ridden mining town of Libby, Mont. A mine owned by Grace that operated from 1963 until 1990 contaminated much of the town with asbestos-tainted vermiculite. Over 200 area residents have died from related cancers, and over 1,200 more show signs of lung abnormalities. The company is facing criminal charges, including conspiring to hide the dangers of asbestos, in a trial to begin later this year. Cleanup of the town and surrounding areas began in 2000; so far, costs have totaled about …

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Climate justice: yes. Carbon trading: no.

Carbon offsetting is not the best way for the global north to subsidize the global south

Okay, my last post summarized Tom Athanasiou and Paul Baers' arguments in favor of drastic cuts in emissions. They place responsibility on the rich and to some extent the middle class rather than the poor. As you might expect, I agree with both these points. I disagree with their arguments that carbon trading and even offsets are the best way for the global north to subsidize the global south. Tom and Paul's argument: the rich countries are responsible for cuts exceeding 100 percent. The only way to meet that obligation is by paying for cuts in the poor nations; Tom …

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Separating rate theory from rate fact

How will the auction vs. allocation debate affect power prices?

Last January, Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) convened hearings on the ways allocation of CO2 permits under a cap-and-trade system will impact power prices and utility profit margins. The short version, drawn from the evidence of Kyoto and other systems that have given credits away for free, is that while free allocations lower power prices in theory, in reality prices rise just as much as they would otherwise -- but they increase margins for exempt generators (i.e., coal plants). Indeed, one of the great criticisms of the Kyoto Protocol has been that it has directly led to increased profits for Europe's …

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Maybe this is why the fossil fuel lobby acts like Big Tobacco

How cars are like cigarettes

Check out this five-star excellent post on the many similarities between tobacco and cars by Michael O'Hare. He makes the point that once-unquestioned social conventions can change quickly once activists refuse to accept "that's just the way it is" and start highlighting the costs these conventions impose.

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Grist takes a gander as green-job gang gathers

Send your questions for the National Green Jobs Conference

A big collection of policy makers, activists, job-training types, and labor union honchos are getting together later this week in Pittsburgh for "Good Jobs, Green Jobs: A National Green Jobs Conference," and it's my job to be there to watch it all go down. It'll be a good opportunity to find out what's hope and what's hype about the emerging green jobs movement -- not to mention exploring Pittsburgh's better bars and restaurants on Grist's dime! Uh, just kidding there. Haha! Nothing but crackers and tap water for me. Anyway, I'd love to bring questions from Grist readers about green …

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What price the future?

No sensible warming response can exclude carbon pricing

Jim Manzi, with whom I have debated warming policy responses before, has a problem with The Washington Post's coverage of new studies on climate change. He writes: The premise of the story by Juliet Eilperin is well-expressed by its headline: "Carbon Output Must Near Zero To Avert Danger, New Studies Say". Eilperin prominently quotes Carnegie Institution senior scientist Ken Caldeira, co-author of one of the studies promoted by the article, who says: "The question is, what if we don't want the Earth to warm anymore?" Well, that's a question, but it's certainly not the question, and is not even a …

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Solar-panel manufacturers dumping toxic waste in China

Solar panels may look bright and shiny, but they have a dark underbelly: production of polysilicon for panels gives off a highly toxic byproduct called silicon tetrachloride. In China, where factories are rushing to alleviate a polysilicon shortage that's cramping the global solar-panel industry, the bubbly white liquid is often just dumped in nearby villages. "The land where you dump or bury [silicon tetrachloride] will be infertile. No grass or trees will grow in the place," says a material-sciences expert at Hebei Industrial University. "It is poisonous, it is polluting. Human beings can never touch it." While silicon tetrachloride can …

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Conditions sour for organic dairy farms

Dairy producers’ alliance responds to Gary Hirshberg of Stonyfield Farm

This essay is the latest installment in a debate between Ed Maltby and Gary Hirshberg, CE-Yo of Stonyfield Farm. Maltby opened the debate with this post; Hirshberg responded here; Maltby's response follows below. We are airing the debate at length because we think our readers should know that our organic dairy farmers have reached a crisis point -- squeezed by production costs that are rising much faster than the price they receive in the market. ----- I want to thank Gary Hirshberg for replying so quickly to some of the points that we have been raising for the last six …

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Crude oil at $130 this year? And $150 next year?

Rising cost of oil pushes value of the dollar down

Bloomberg reports: Crude oil may reach a record $130 a barrel this year because pension funds are investing more in commodities, said Pierre Andurand, the chief investment officer of BlueGold Capital Management LLP, a hedge fund ... "Next year, oil may rise even further to $150 a barrel." Okay, this is a hedge fund guy who is betting the ranch on oil and probably doing his part to drive up prices. But at the end of the day, this is an issue of fundamentals -- supply and demand: Oil companies such as Exxon Mobil Corp., Royal Dutch Shell Plc and …

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Yet another perk of energy-efficient buildings

Car plant cuts energy costs $627,000 with two-month payback — with DOE help

Economic models greatly overestimate the cost of carbon mitigation, in large part because economists simply don't believe (and hence don't model) that the economy has lots of high-return energy efficiency opportunities. In their theory, the economy is always operating near efficiency. Reality is very different than economic models. I have never visited a factory or commercial buildings that didn't have huge energy-saving opportunities, many of which also increase productivity. I wrote a book several years ago with a hundred real-world case studies: Cool Companies: How the Best Businesses Boost Profits and Productivity by Cutting Greenhouse Gas Emissions. Studies that model …