Business & Technology

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 …

What's in your package?

A $4.6 billion coal gift in stimulus package, record profits for FutureGen members

While Peabody Coal, one of the prime sponsors of the FutureGen boondoggle in Illinois, announced an eightfold increase in profits in their fourth quarter reports for 2008, the Senate Appropriations Committee just approved legislation for an additional $4.6 billion in handouts to the coal industry as part of the stimulus package, in the guise of "clean coal." There's a new detail on this "clean coal" money: $2 billion are no longer slated for zero emissions plants, but "near-zero emissions" power plants -- so much for all of those TV ads about zero emissions. What are near-zero emissions? Sorta like near-zero coal ash ponds and accidents, near-zero 10,000 black lung cases, near-zero workplace mining accidents, near-zero 1 million acres of strip mining and mountaintop removal, near-zero watershed contamination, and near-zero coal truck accidents? This is on top of $2.8 billion the coal industry picked up in the last bailout. In the meantime, check out the dream team sponsors of FutureGen, the much ballyhooed poster child of the "clean coal" proponents who somehow like us to forget that before coal will ever be burned with near-zero mercury and carbon dioxide emissions, coal first needs to be extracted, processed, transported, and burned with ash piles. FutureGen Alliance Members include:

I volunteer to help test this policy

Shorter work week as stimulus

Economist Dean Baker (co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research and one of the good guys in that dismal profession) takes up one of my pet obsessions: a shorter work week: One innovative policy that would provide a quick boost to the economy and jobs -- and lasting gains in reduced unemployment -- is a tax incentive for shorter workweeks or work years. ... How would this help the economy? The tax break would allow the employer to compensate workers for fewer hours up to some limit, say a maximum of $2,500 per worker. That would cut work hours but maintain staffing levels. As a result, workers would be getting just as much money as before the reduction in hours -- but putting in 10% fewer hours. If workers have the same amount of money, then demand in the economy will be the same. At the same time, firms would then need to hire more workers to meet this demand, since they would be getting 10% fewer hours from each worker. I once did a column in Fast Company on the ecological benefits of a shorter work week. This seems like one of those things that's substantively win-win but sociopolitically completely out of reach. People have weird attitudes about work.

Inside the mind of the green market

Musings from an L.A. green-biz conference

This article is part of a collaboration with Planetizen, the web's leading resource for the urban planning, design, and development community. The green marketplace is the marketplace of the future. From Wal-Mart to Toyota to the neighborhood dry cleaner, it seems like every business is going out of its way to tell us how green it is. That could either be a great thing, because these businesses are actually using environmentally friendly practices, or it could be a bad thing, because they're just claiming to be green. Regardless of which it is, one thing is certain: they say they're green because that's what we want to hear.

Are the Big Three just ghostwriting WaPo editorials now?

The Washington Post editorial board, drifting ever farther right, covers its Auto Alliance position on CAFE with a shiny, self-righteous veneer of Krauthammerian posturing on gas taxes.

Clearing the decks for the next expansion

To make the most of this recession, we will need an economic expansion that restores our climate

Cross-posted at the NDN Blog. ----- As the economic recovery and investment package backed by the administration works its way through Congress, and more evidence about the nature of this recession surfaces, an interesting exercise is to think about how we want to emerge once it is over. In the midst of current economic turmoil, it may seem difficult to imagine the post-recovery world, let alone accurately predict it. Nonetheless, starting with an outcome and working backwards to a policy prescription is far preferable to policy based purely on the passions of the moment. Following are my thoughts on the world I would like to see in 2012 and the resulting implications for current policy.

Nukes and native people

Seventy percent of world's uranium lies under native lands

"Nuclear Caribou" by Mark Dowie, in the new issue of Orion magazine, explains the drama playing out on a crucial caribou calving ground in Nunavut, in northern Canada. It is emblematic of a worldwide challenge to the sovereignty of indigenous communities in Africa, Asia, Australia, and North and South America. As uranium mining companies rush to fill an expected spike in demand, they often are staking claims on native-owned lands. That's because, and I knew the number was high, but not this high: roughly 70 percent of the world's uranium resources are located under these communities, and about two-thirds of prospective uranium deposits in the U.S. are under or adjacent to Native American land. It's not at all clear if the Nunavut claims will ever be mined, though it's looking more likely all the time. But then Winona LaDuke weighs in with an alternative vision for energy projects on native lands, a green one, that promises a better future for everyone concerned.

Sue me harder

So, remember how we're going to dump billions and billions of dollars into the laps of the Big Three automakers, to rescue them from their own myopic decisions? And remember how automakers are suing the crap out of every state that tries to implement California's tailpipe emission standards? Remember how Obama green-lit the waiver for those standards yesterday, and how those standards are overwhelmingly supported by the public? Putting all that together, it occurred to New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolbert to wonder whether automakers will use that taxpayer money to fund their lawsuits against, um, taxpayers. So she contacted them, and the following day put up a second post: Yes. Yes, they are going to use taxpayer money to sue taxpayers.

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