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Taking ‘em to the mat

The first rule of Carbon Offsets is, you do not talk about Carbon Offsets. Just kidding. This isn't Fight Club, but I do aim to pick a fight with those overhyping offsets. If a smart company like Google can seriously think it can go green by burning coal and then buying offsets and if a smart company like PG&E is bragging about a new program that allows customers to offset their electricity emissions by planting trees (a dopey program I'll blog about later), then something is very wrong about the general understanding of offsets. For those who want a basic …

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Turned Offset

Leading banks suggest regulation of carbon-offset market Not long ago, the phrase "carbon offset" was a kind of magic. Investing in far-off green projects, the thinking went, made up for emissions at the source. Poof! But complications arose, and now a group of more than 10 major banks wants to move toward regulating the market -- at least the voluntary offsets that aren't government-regulated. The standards floated by the cabal -- including Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, and Deutsche Bank -- would cover such basics as making sure emissions cuts are "measurable, verifiable, and permanent" and keeping credits from being sold more …

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Citgo Boom

Jury finds Citgo guilty of criminal Clean Air Act charges In a legal first, oil refiner Citgo has been found guilty of criminal charges under the Clean Air Act. The case -- involving two open-air storage tanks in Corpus Christi, Texas, that released the carcinogen benzene into the air -- marks the first time criminal violations of the act have gone to trial; previous cases against refiners have been settled out of court. While the jury cleared Citgo of two charges that it knowingly released illegal levels of benzene, the refiner was nailed on two charges that it did not …

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In an op-ed, Russ George claims his company has been unfairly maligned

A company called Planktos has taken some lumps on our site, so when their president, Russ George, sent this response along, I agreed to run it. (It ran originally in the Ottawa Citizen.) Your responses are welcome, but please, keep them civil. ----- As someone who has committed most of my waking life to caring for the planet, recent misleading reports on the foundations and future of my current company's work have led me to reflect on some large and important questions. Let me start with a bit of personal history to provide some context. My career on behalf of …

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Turning Lemons Into Powerade

Waste Management announces $400 million methane-to-energy plan Renewable energy got a boost this week: mega-hauler Waste Management said it will spend $400 million over five years to build 60 landfill-based facilities that will convert methane to electricity. The potent gas -- which results from the decomposition of organic yummies like trash and cow manure -- is the second-leading human-made contributor to climate change after carbon dioxide, and landfills account for 34 percent of methane emissions in the U.S. Waste Management already operates about 100 methane-energy facilities at its 281 North American landfills; in Saint-Sophie, Quebec, for instance, such an operation …

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Can’t … look … away …

I'm told there's a story attached to that picture at the top, but I can't seem to get past it. My cute-o-meter is pegging.

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Find a new source of power, dudes

Google got a lot of great press for its new plan to "voluntarily cut or offset all its greenhouse emissions by the end of the year." But was it all deserved? The Boston Globe reported the story as "Google aims to go carbon-neutral by end 2007. " The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) reprinted the story, as did Greenwire and others. Buried in the story was this gem: Separately, Google is planning to spend $600 million to build a data center in western Iowa that will receive power from a MidAmerican Energy Co. plant fired by coal, the …

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Boulder and Wiser

IBM plans green data-center expansion in Colorado High-tech grandpappy IBM will undertake an $86 million expansion of a greenish data center in Boulder, Colo. The company will add 80,000 square feet to a 225,000-square-foot facility, using energy-efficient lighting and heating, efficient building design, and energy-conservation technologies in the data gear. It's all part of a cunning plan to double data-center capacity by 2010 without increasing energy usage or emissions. And that, in turn, is part of Project Big Green, an initiative the company unveiled in early May that will see it spend $1 billion a year to improve its and …

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I’m lovin’ it

I've got an interview over at Salon with Charles Clover, a British journalist who has been covering the oceans for 20 years and has a book out, End of the Line. Among his more startling revelations: that McDonald's fish sandwich is more sustainable than Nobu's menu (the restaurant for the stars), because it is sourced from an Alaskan fishery certified by the Marine Stewardship Council. McDonald's, though, does not advertise the MSC label because then it would have to pay a licensing fee.

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Legit or not?

While writing about medium wind in Alaska, I ran into information that led me to believe there were some questionable offsets involved with the project. More extensive research, including interviews with Brent Petrie of AVEC and Tom Stoddard of Native Energy, have revealed a more complicated situation, one that still doesn't look good to me. Here is what the situation looks like at first glance: AVEC has installed wind turbines that produce electricity for around 15 cents per kWh, according to the interview on which the first post was based. That 15 cents per kWh wind is displacing 45 cents …