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Economists say that only the largest ethanol producers will survive

Of all the arguments in favor of government backing for corn-based ethanol, only one seems even remotely reasonable to me: that it could lead to real economic development in depressed areas of the Midwest. The theory goes like this: When farmers pool resources and build their own ethanol plants, they'll capture much higher profits than by merely selling corn to big buyers like ADM and Cargill. According to an article in today's Wisconsin State Journal, that rationale for corn-based ethanol may be about to unravel. For about two generations, the Midwest's farmers have seen the price for corn and other …

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Dole will make some tropical-fruit distribution carbon-neutral

U.S. residents have a heckuva hard time finding a local pineapple (Hawaiians respectfully excluded, of course). But now you can nosh your tropical fruit with less guilt; Dole Food has pledged to offset 100 percent of the CO2 emissions that come from growing bananas and pineapples in Costa Rica. Working with government agencies, the company plans to carbon-neutralize its entire supply chain, from growing the fruit to packing, transporting, and distributing it in North America and Europe. And those emissions are far from insignificant: Dole ships some 31 million boxes of bananas and 13 million boxes of pineapples annually from …

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In a nutshell

Business types discuss various subjects at industry confabs: best practices, new marketing strategies, changes in the regulatory environment, etc. They discuss how better to compete. When representatives of the coal-to-liquids industry get together, they talk about something else: One theme dominated discussion last week at an industry-sponsored conference on turning coal into gasoline and diesel fuel: finding political support for government incentives.

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They’re still common, but they make no sense

A little while back I praised Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) for opposing new coal plants in his home state. Now he's clarified his position: he opposes new coal plants anywhere in the world. Word. One grumpy note. Look at this: Michael Yackira, president and chief executive officer of Sierra Pacific Resources, said his company "respectfully disagrees" with Reid's position. His company is seeking approval to build one of the plants. "We believe what we'll be building is the cleanest coal-fired plant in the world" because of new technology, Yackira said. "We must also have fossil fuel plants for …

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Wikipedia Scanner reveals orgs that edit Wikipedia articles

Ah, Wikipedia. Many of us at Grist frequently use this resource, but we do so knowing that just about anyone can edit a Wikipedia article at anytime. So, can we really trust the information contained within? Fear not! As Wired reports, there is a new tool that sheds some light on who is editing what: On November 17th, 2005, an anonymous Wikipedia user deleted 15 paragraphs from an article on e-voting machine-vendor Diebold, excising an entire section critical of the company's machines. While anonymous, such changes typically leave behind digital fingerprints offering hints about the contributor, such as the location …

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Making money cutting carbon

DR: There hasn't been any public pressure to change the electricity system. Most people don't even know how electricity is made. It comes out of the wall like magic. TC: You are so right. In Ontario, they did a massive peer-reviewed study to identify the health and environmental effects of making power with coal, and what they thought would be saved if they replaced the coal with gas or nuclear. They talked about being able to save $3 billion a year in health and environmental costs. When you divide that number by the kilowatt hours made from coal plants, it …

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Charlie and the Optimism Factory

Florida's governor names climate panel, talks up green economy Used to be the greenest thing in Florida was a golf course -- or maybe an old lady's dye job gone slightly awry. But something's happening in that sunshiny state. This week, Gov. Charlie Crist (R) followed up on an early-summer commitment by picking 21 business, community, and environmental leaders to serve on his Action Team on Energy and Climate Change. By November, the team will put forward plans for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions and diversifying electricity sources; by next October, they'll shape a strategy for mitigating the impacts of development and …

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Strange Riverbed Fellows?

IBM partners with New York institute to create river-research center Tech giant IBM is partnering with a state-financed science organization in New York to create a cutting-edge river research center. The project, launched with the Beacon Institute for Rivers and Estuaries, will tap into the mad skillz of IBM engineers to provide 24-hour data collection along the Hudson River's 315-mile reach. Its organizers hope the resulting information will be used for both educational and business purposes; they also hope to spread their technology around the world, once they perfect it. "We each hope to discover a lot of things along …

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Huffington calls on press to do that thing I did

Arianna Huffington wonders why, with all the press coverage of the Utah mine collapse, so little has focused on the horrible safety record, anti-unionism, and political back-room dealings of the mine company's faux-folksy CEO, Bob Murray. What she does not do, apparently, is read her own site. Just saying.

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Fascinating talk from people at the company

Via Treehugger, Metropolis magazine has posted a transcript of a talk by Scott Charon and Susan Lyons from furniture company Herman Miller. The talk was given at Metropolis's conference Design Entrepreneurs: Rethinking Energy. As the eco-geeks among you likely know, Herman Miller is way out ahead of almost any other company on the planet in pursuing cradle-to-cradle principles. Charon and Lyons dive into some of the details, and it's fascinating, fascinating stuff. Here's a tease: We have an initiative called Perfect Vision; by the year 2020 we want to be a totally sustainable company. That means we want to have …