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Business & Technology


Coal isn't cheap

Don’t believe the power company hype about coal’s low price

This just in from Restructuring Today ($ub req'd): Sunflower Electric, of the recent Kansas decision not to allow an electric permit because of CO2 concerns, has argued that the decision was a bad idea because it will drive up power prices. But their math is wrong. Here's a partial excerpt from the RT story: A decision by the Kansas Department of Health & Environment to deny a coal power plant permit would mean higher power bills for some. That's "an absolute certainty," Sunflower Electric Power told us Friday. How much higher? At today's prices the firm could pay 1.5¢ for …


Brit's Eye View: The future becomes us

Envisioning possible green futures helps create a greener future

Peter Madden, chief executive of Forum for the Future, writes a monthly column for Gristmill on sustainability in the U.K. and Europe. There has been much discussion lately of the need to turn the green agenda from a negative to a positive one. I think that an important part of this is developing some more positive visions of what living in a sustainable future might be like. My organization, Forum for the Future, has set itself this task. Partly because we think the green movement needs more credible and aspirational stories of the future if we are to take people …


Junk-free mailbox

A new company offers relief from unwanted mail

Perhaps the only great thing about having moved four times in the past year is that I get virtually no junk mail, at least yet. At my permanent residence in Tennessee, however, where my parents have lived for over twenty years; the catalogs, credit card offers, and sweepstakes offers cram the mailbox on a daily basis. Just yesterday my mother was telling me how bad it's gotten -- and how bad she feels trekking straight from the post box to the recycling bin with armfuls of glossy glut. Last year I posted about Greendimes, an agency that, for a dime …


Reports bring various doomy and gloomy predictions

Indeed, the depressing reports come fast and furious. German-based Energy Watch Group says the world has already reached peak oil, and predicts that production will now fall by 7 percent a year. The Worldwatch Institute suggests that 21 cities that will have populations of 8 million or more by 2015 are highly vulnerable to havoc wreaked by rising seas. The comprehensive "The U.S. Economic Impacts of Climate Change and the Costs of Inaction" suggests that the U.S. faces hundreds of billions of dollars in weather-related damages in coming years if it doesn't get crackin' on climate-change mitigation. And an informal …


Water loss in Great Lakes reduces shipping revenue

Water loss in the Great Lakes is creating a dilemma for shipping companies. Allow Jonathan Daniels, director of a public port agency, to explain: "The more we lose water, the less cargo the ships that travel in the Great Lakes can carry, and each time that happens, shipping companies lose money. Ultimately, it's people like you and I who are going to pay the price." Thanks to higher-than-normal evaporation and lower-than-normal precipitation, all five Great Lakes are shrinking -- Lake Ontario's water level has dropped three inches in October alone.


Yahoo! goes carbon neutral

Web company announces selection of offset projects

Back in April, Yahoo! announced that it will be going carbon neutral in 2007, and pledged to be entirely transparent about the process. They acknowledged the controversy around offsets: We know carbon neutrality isn't without controversy. And it's honestly deserved if companies and individuals don't first make an effort to find direct ways to reduce their impact. We'll continue to be vigilant about cutting ours, looking for creative ways to power our facilities, encourage even more employees to seek alternative commutes, and generally inspire Yahoos around the world to think differently about their energy use. ... We'll also be deliberate …


Economics and environmental protection

Nobel winner explains why markets can’t replace public goods

From Reuters: Societies should not rely on market forces to protect the environment or provide quality health care for all citizens, a winner of the 2007 Nobel Prize for economics said on Monday. ... "The market doesn't work very well when it comes to public goods," said [Professor Eric] Maskin ... Mechanism Design Theory is one explanation for why even a well-regulated market with external costs priced via Pigovian or green taxes is inadequate in areas like environmental performance or health care. Certain types of goods -- public goods -- simply cannot be allocated efficiently through market mechanisms alone. This …


Activists threaten to sue Apple over chemicals in iPhone

Greenpeace claimed recently that Apple's much-hyped iPhone contains dangerous levels of phthalates, chlorine, and bromine, and now another environmental group, the Center for Environmental Health in Oakland, Calif., has sent the company a formal warning claiming that Apple violated California's Proposition 65, which requires companies to warn consumers of the risk of toxic exposure. "There are chemicals in some of the parts that come with the iPhone that are well known in California to cause birth defects," said CEH's Michael Green. "We want those chemicals out." Apple has 60 days to clean up the phones or warn consumers about them; …


Connecting the dots: Part I

From black to white: An argument for green-collar jobs

"Spiritually fulfilling, ecologically sustainable, and socially just" is the title of a recent speech by Van Jones, who has been appearing in strategic places for a few years now. As cofounder of the Ella Baker Center in Oakland, he has been attempting to fight environmental pollution that has been poisoning the residents of inner-city areas in Oakland and all over the country. As such, he is in a unique position to bridge a rather wide chasm: the African-American community and the environmental community. In my previous post, I put forward a utopian realist agenda that, I hypothesized, would solve many …


Largest U.S. garbage hauler greens operations

Strange but true: Our trash is going green. The nation's largest garbage hauler and landfill operator, Waste Management Inc., has announced plans to make its operations more eco-friendly. The company hopes to double its landfill methane-to-electricity production by 2020, boost the fuel efficiency of its fleet by 15 percent by 2020, process more recyclables, and set aside more land for wildlife habitat. Now we almost feel bad that our lifelong goal is to put them out of a job.