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Under pressure

E.U. considers pollution charges on imports from U.S. and other climate scofflaws

U.S. failure to enact limits on global warming emissions could cost American companies that export to the European Union. E.U. President Jose Manuel Barroso on Sunday said the European Commission is considering a charge on importers from nations without carbon limits. Companies from those countries may be required to buy carbon emissions allowances on exports into the E.U. This is intended to level the playing field with European companies who are already part of the European Emissions Trading System instituted to meet E.U. obligations under the Kyoto climate treaty. Barroso said the Commission could "require importers to obtain allowances (emissions …

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Big names will discuss climate at World Economic Forum

Business and political leaders are descending on Davos, Switzerland, for the annual World Economic Forum, which kicks off tomorrow. The forum will offer various climate-related sessions, including one led by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Chair Rajendra Pachauri; one which will be a discussion between Al Gore and Bono; and one with the ominous title Beyond Kyoto: Is Collaboration Possible? Luminaries' travel to and participation in the five-day meeting is expected to produce some 7,500 tons of greenhouse gases, 70 percent of which the forum hopes to make up for by sending solar cookers to impoverished folks in China.

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Whole Foods to stop giving out plastic grocery bags by Earth Day

Natural foods retailer Whole Foods has announced it will stop giving out plastic grocery bags by Earth Day due to the bags' ubiquity and associated environmental problems. The company is opting instead for bagging customers' groceries in 100 percent recycled paper bags and/or encouraging customers to bring their own reusable sacks. "More and more cities and countries are beginning to place serious restrictions on single-use plastic shopping bags since they don't break down in our landfills, can harm nature by clogging waterways and endangering wildlife, and litter our roadsides," said Whole Foods' A.C. Gallo. The grocery chain estimates that the …

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If you build it, they will come

Growing solar industry depends on key tax credit that will expire this year

Advocates talk a lot about how renewable energy is not just good for the environment, but good for the economy as well. And here is some real-world proof: New Mexico, with strong leadership by Gov. Richardson, PRC Commissioners Lujan and Marks, and many others, has done more than most to establish the full suite of policies necessary to build a solar market. And the reward? Schott AG is investing $100 million in a new manufacturing facility outside of Albuquerque. It will initially employ 350 people, which could grow to 1,500. Good stuff, and congrats to New Mexico. But lookie here …

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Clean-tech and wind power both soaring

Investment in clean-tech companies rose 44 percent from 2005 to 2006, and jumped an additional 44 percent from 2006 to 2007, soaring to $5.18 billion, according to the Cleantech Group LLC. Last year in clean-tech, energy generation received $2.75 billion in investment, followed by energy storage ($471 million) and transportation ($445 million). And you know what that means: "More new car companies were financed in the last 12 months than probably in the last 50 or 60 years," says the Cleantech Group's John Balbach. Um ... great? In related news, U.S. wind power grew by 45 percent last year, boosted …

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Absolut greenwashing?

Vodka maker launches global cooling campaign

In a partnership with Live Earth (yes, they're still doing stuff), Absolut Vodka has launched a Global Cooling campaign that "encourages consumers to reduce the effects of global warming by offering simple steps they can implement in their daily lives." As part of the campaign, Absolut is sponsoring the Live Earth Film Series, a collection of short films that will make the rounds at various film festivals this year -- starting with Sundance this weekend. Absolut will also be donating up to $500,000 to three charities -- the Environmental Media Association, The Ocean Foundation, and The Fruit Tree Planting Foundation …

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Can the environmental economy dodge a recession?

As economic indicators trend downward, the clean-tech sector is still looking up

As one key economic engine after another -- housing, finance, autos, retail -- sputters and stalls out, the fledgling eco-economy is purring right along, fueled in no small part by venture capital firms hungry for new opportunities in industries that promise outsized returns on their investments. In the first three quarters of 2007, VCs poured $2.6 billion into alternative energy and clean-tech firms, more money than they invested for the whole of 2006. The new year promises to be another record breaker. And it's not only the Silicon Valley sharpies that are on the prowl: GE is promising to plow …

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Google announces expansion of philanthropic goals beyond alternative energy

Google has announced it's expanding the goals of its philanthropic arm, Google.org, beyond alternative energy to include fighting disease, averting pandemics and other mass crises, and alleviating poverty in the developing world. Along with the expansion of its mission, Google.org announced some of the recipients of the first round of grants and investments yesterday, totaling about $25 million. Over $7.5 million was announced for organizations as part of Google's "protect and prevent" initiative to combat pandemics, over $3 million is slated for organizations to "inform and empower to improve public services" in South Asia, and over $3 million will go …

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Coal is the enemy of the human race: Goliath, meet David edition

Google invests in solar thermal company eSolar

Today, Google announced it's investing $10 million in eSolar, a solar thermal company, as part of its RE<C project. (Speaking of the latter, we've got an excellent interview on it coming up soon.) Here's what esolar has to say about itself (PDF): To serve the renewable electricity needs of utility-scale energy providers, eSolar has developed a market disrupting solar thermal power plant technology. Generation can be scaled from 25 MW to over 500 MW at energy prices competitive with traditional fossil fuels. David Sassoon has more.

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The Fleiss is right

Former Hollywood madam to open wind-powered brothel

Heidi Fleiss. Ten things I didn't know about former Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss until I read this awesome Elle story: She's a vegetarian. She calls herself a tree hugger. She owns 24 parrots. She runs a laundromat called Dirty Laundry in Pahrump, Nev. (Pahrump!) Her next business venture will be wind-powered. It will be a brothel. For women. (There go the blow-job jokes.) Called the Stud Farm. Where clients can "get a manicure, a pedicure, and a shag." Seriously!