Business & Technology

Big Three auto execs pledge to become greener, more profitable

In a desperate, collective plea for up to $38 billion in government aid, executives from Detroit’s Big Three automakers told a Senate committee on Thursday they would start to crank out smaller, more fuel-efficient cars and streamline their businesses to stay afloat. “Now we are absolutely committed to exceeding our customers’ expectations for quality, fuel-efficiency, safety, and affordability,” said Ford’s chief executive Alan Mulally. The execs made similar pleas to members of the House of Representatives on Friday.

Sales of popular hybrid vehicles plunged in November

Sales of popular hybrid vehicles like the Toyota Prius and hybrid Honda Civic fell significantly in November, due to a poor economy, higher upfront costs for hybrids, and significantly lower gas prices nationwide. Hybrid Honda Civic sales fell some 68 percent last month while figures for the Toyota Prius show that its sales plunged about 48 percent.

Shell's ironic vision of carbon capture

Shell greenwashes with a full-page WaPo ad

Shell’s Mad Men win the 2008 award for the most unintentionally ironic greenwashing ad. On Monday (and again today), Shell ran a full-page ad in the Washington Post on carbon capture with this image: Yes, Shell is apparently trying to catch CO2 with a net! Let’s hope they have better luck than either the Bush administration or the rest of the world. Here is the full text of the ad (online here), which has an unintentionally amusing headline: In the new energy future, we’ll need to think the impossible is possible. The world needs to tackle CO2 emissions. Carbon capture …

Bank of America will stop funding mountaintop-removal mining

In a big win for environmentalists, Bank of America agreed Wednesday to “phase out financing” to coal companies “whose predominant method of extracting coal” is mountaintop-removal mining. Green groups recently persuaded several BoA execs to visit ravaged Appalachian mountains. Ironically, the U.S. EPA just this week approved a rule change that makes mountaintop removal easier.

BofA disses MTR

New policy would divest bank from mountain obliteration

In light of the crappy news from the EPA, which seems ready to make mountaintop removal coal mining easier by loosening restrictions on burying Appalachian streams with mining rubble (when’s the “protection” part of this agency going to speak up?), there’s this bit of hope in NRDC’s blog about Bank of America, which just revised its “coal policy” [PDF] after some execs visited the region and did some flights over the affected areas. The policy says in part that it will "phase out financing of companies whose predominant method of extracting coal is through mountain top removal. While we acknowledge …

A little of the direct action Al Gore called for

Taking on corporate America’s faves

Activists occupy Environmental Defense’s offices.

Tomato concentrate

Time to slice up the tomato industry?

What happens when a few large buyers dominate a market? Anyone who keeps up with my posts — still there, mom? — knows what’s coming next: The buyers gain the power to dictate to dictate terms and conditions to sellers. For farmers, the results of concentrated markets are devastating. As a few giant companies like Smithfield and Tyson came to dominate meat packing, they managed to drive down the farmgate price of chickens, pigs, and beef cows. As a result, hundreds of thousands of farmers were driven out of business. Survivors took on debt and scaled up, in a desperate …


What should be done with the empty big box?

Last month, Circuit City announced that it would close 155 of its stores, most of them big boxes: those 50,000- to almost 300,000-square-foot warehouse-like structures, often built far from city centers. By one estimate, there are almost 3,000 vacant big boxes littering the American landscape, with more to come as major retailers falter. Makes Wal-Mart’s logo, that “Always” emblazoned on their façades, seem ironic: what’s really permanent is the big box as retail grave. The environmental impacts of big box stores are well documented — among other things, they consume green space, encourage driving, and soak up public funds. But …

One in three toys tested has worrisome levels of toxic chemicals, group says

A study of some 1,500 popular children’s toys sold in the United States found that one in three tested contained “medium” to “high” levels of a range of toxic chemicals including arsenic, lead, mercury, and others, according to green group the Ecology Center. “Our hope is that by empowering consumers with this information, manufacturers and lawmakers will feel the pressure to start phasing out the most harmful substances immediately, and to change the nation’s laws to protect children from highly toxic chemicals,” said EC’s Jeff Gearhart.

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