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On electricity deregulation

In The Karate Kid, Mr. Miyagi advises that "It is good to know karate. It is good not to know karate. It is not good to know a little karate." With the price caps now coming off in the few states that partially deregulated their electricity grids, there is a rising backlash against competitive markets, with some of that backlash even coming from normally pro-market groups like The Cato Institute. This backlashers generally argue that partial deregulation has taught us that deregulation doesn't work in the electric sector. But we ought to remember Mr. Miyagi's advice, lest we draw the …

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Groups petition federal agencies to regulate air fresheners

Environmental groups petitioned the U.S. EPA and the Consumer Product Safety Commission yesterday to regulate air fresheners, which can aggravate asthma and often contain chemicals such as benzene and formaldehyde, as well as other compounds linked to developmental problems in kids. The eco-groups want companies to list all the ingredients in air fresheners and conduct health and safety tests, including study of the respiratory effects of breathing in freshener chemicals. In response to independent testing commissioned by the environmental groups of 14 different air fresheners, Walgreens pulled three of its store-brand fresheners off the shelves of its 5,850 U.S. stores …

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Ontario has higher capacity for renewable energy projects than the government estimates

The Toronto Star has been doing some excellent work on the environment and energy issues in Ontario lately -- I pointed to some not too long ago. Many of those stories come from the Roberts-endorsed Tyler Hamilton. Yesterday, Hamilton had an excellent piece in the front of the business section. It's on the alternatives to nuclear construction that the province is ignoring; it tallies up all the missed opportunities. The conclusion is that Ontario could build ten times as much renewable energy as the government currently estimates, more than enough to displace the planned and allegedly necessary nuclear reactors. Some …

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Discover Brilliant: Smart grid R&D

Next up, a discussion of trends in energy industry R&D. Starring: Gridwise Council, Alison Silverstein (Moderator) PIER and California Energy Commission, Merwin Brown, Director of Transmission Research Modern Grid Initiative, NETL, Steve Pullins Bonnevile Power Authority, Terry Oliver, Chief Technology Innovation Officer Oliver: Electric utilities invest tiny amounts of money in R&D -- "less than the dog food industry." This is bad on its own, but particularly bad because utilities are facing big and growing challenges. Transmission is getting stressed; reliability standards are getting more stringent; more renewables coming online; physical security is poor; demand response is lagging; more and …

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The promise of governmental buyers’ clubs

We often wonder whether the government is better suited to solving many of our problems, or whether the market should take the lead. The current issue of The Atlantic Monthly has an article concerning the efforts of Bill Clinton's foundation which addresses this issue. The article shows how governments can work with markets for the benefit of large numbers of people and the planet by guaranteeing demand for a particular product or service. By doing this in the long-term, the production of beneficial goods and services can achieve the economies of scale that will make them practical to use within …

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How to enable consumers to be responsive to electricity prices

I had an interview so I missed most of "The Emerging Models for Demand-Response Technology." I walked in about halfway through. Reliant Energy, Mark Jacobs, CEO EnerNOC, Scott McGaraghan, Director of Business Development--West Coast IBM, Ron Ambrosio, Global Research Leader--Energy & Utilities  PG&E, Janice Berman, Senior Director of Customer Generation and Emerging Technologies Tons of interesting stuff being said, but I'm too late to helpfully summarize. Suffice to say, lots of people are out there working on ways to get information into consumers' hands, enabling them to modify their energy use based on price and environmental signals. There are nifty …

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Innovation from the nation’s most progressive electricity providers

First up today, a session on utilities: "Big Energy, Big Vision -- Utilities Making the Climate Commitment." We're starting off with a presentation from Janice Berman of PG&E, a northern California utility that's way, way ahead of the pack on energy policy. Here's an abridged list of what they're doing: Funding renewables generation via solar, wind, tides, and biomass. Hooking customers up with solar systems (more than 1700 so far). Pushing hard on energy efficiency. Allowing customers to go climate neutral via offsets. A Sustainable Communities program focuses on holistic city and town sustainability (rather than merely efficiency), at the …

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15 Green Business Founders

Some of these eco-entrepreneurs you've likely heard of, some of them you surely haven't, but all of them deserve kudos for starting up companies that strive for sustainability. Read about their accomplishments, then tell us about green business owners who've inspired you in the comments section at the bottom of this page. Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia Patagonia has been a leader in sustainability since Chouinard spun it off from his original climbing-gear company in the 1970s. Having pioneered the use of organic cotton and recycled-plastic fleece, the outdoor retailer continues to innovate other eco-friendly materials, and even takes old clothes back …

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Looking at an industrial-meat giant’s China deal

While PETA roils Gristmill and other greenie sites by brandishing climate change to promote vegetarianism, Smithfield Foods just keeps cranking out industrial meat. As I noted in last week's Victual Reality, the company recently announced a deal to sell 60 million pounds of pork to China. Since then, Smithfield has revealed details about how it will fill that order: by ramping up production at a slaughter facility in Sioux City, Iowa, hometown of one of the nation's most ambitious local-food initiatives. Reports Reuters: The [Sioux City] plant will begin processing an additional 3,200 hogs a day next week, or about …

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Investors petition SEC to require companies to disclose climate risk

Activists, investors, and activist investors have teamed up to try to compel the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to require publicly traded companies to disclose their climate-change risks. Under current law, the SEC requires companies to detail potential risks to investors in their annual and quarterly reports to the agency. The activists, armed with a petition, are seeking an "interpretive" release from the agency clarifying that climate risk, and the risks and benefits that could come from domestic climate legislation, should already be part of a company's financial reports. "This is about an investor's right to know," said a spokesperson …