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Business as usual?

Why we shouldn’t forget the Farm Bill

Once again, a prime example of our misguided farm policies hits like a ton of factory-farm manure sludge -- or in this case, a massive sack of federally insured, genetically modified corn. Last Wednesday, Monsanto announced that the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC) approved a pilot program that will give farmers a 20 percent discount on insurance premiums if they plant a majority of their corn acres with seeds featuring Monsanto's trademarked YieldGard Plus with Roundup Ready Corn 2 or YieldGard VT Triple stack technology. This is the first time the FCIC Board has approved a crop insurance discount for …

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Krupped up

I have been informed by people reliably more environmentalish than I that my qualified partial not-quite-endorsement of ED's Fred Krupp makes me a corporatist dupe and a sell-out. I have turned in my environmentalist badge and look forward to reprogramming.

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Those greenwashing Chevron ads

The greening of Chevron is not as impressive as they’d like you to think

Those greenwashing ads are really starting to bug me. "It took us 125 years to use the first trillion barrels of oil. We'll use the next trillion in 30." And you're proud of this fact -- proud of your role in bringing about the wholesale destruction of this planet's climate? Will you join us? No, I won't. I'm trying to figure out a way to get people to use a lot less of your polluting product. And now, "Chevron Announces New Global 'Human Energy' Advertising Campaign." I suppose it's better than the ad campaign for "inhuman energy" that they have …

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Working with cities to build markets

Clinton’s 21st century climate philanthropy

I heartily recommend this month's Atlantic Monthly cover story, "It's Not Charity" (via Yglesias). It's mostly about Bill Clinton's post-presidency adventures and the new model of philanthropy he's trying to develop. Embedded within is a description of a fascinating climate program he's been developing with Ira Magaziner. An excerpt: The climate initiative, in typical Magaziner style, has many moving parts, including technical assistance to cities, networks for sharing best practices, software to measure progress, financial support, and a full-time foundation staff member assigned to each city. But the make-or-break component is a plan to re-equilibrate the market for energy conservation. …

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States adopt decoupling plans to encourage energy efficiency

It's a scheme that turns the traditional business model on its head: power companies can make more money by selling less power. Under "decoupling" plans, state regulators give incentive payments to electric utilities that encourage energy efficiency by their customers. "Before there was almost a disincentive to go hard at efficiency because we weren't recovering our fixed costs" such as plants and equipment, says a rep for Idaho Power. "Now the anticipation is that we will recover our fixed cost." Decoupling plans also reduce the need for costly new power plants -- a boon for both utilities and the planet. …

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Fair-trade market boosted by consumer demand

An ever-greener and ever-more-caffeinated world is boosting the fair-trade market -- not just for coffee, but for products such as cocoa, cotton, tea, pineapples, and flowers. The certification, which holds growers to strict standards per child labor, pesticide use, recycling, and more, is not a phenomenon specific to hippie shops: all Dunkin' Donuts in the U.S. and all McDonald's in England sell fair-trade coffee. Starbucks is also a big buyer, while Sam's Club just converted its private label of ground coffee to fair trade. It's still a niche market: in 2006, only 3.3 percent of coffee sold in the U.S. …

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Knocked Krupp

Is Environmental Defense leader Fred Krupp a savvy dealmaker or a stooge?

I keep meaning to link to The New Republic's thoughtful profile of Fred Krupp, head honcho at Environmental Defense: Krupp, of all environmentalists, has been the most successful in persuading the corporate world--and those who support its interests--to embrace the green cause. Among his accomplishments, Krupp has helped convince McDonald's to abandon Styrofoam for paper, Wal-Mart to stock energy- efficient light bulbs, Duke Energy to invest in wind power, and Federal Express to use hybrid trucks. He was one of the main architects of the Kyoto Protocol and is a linchpin in Mayor Mike Bloomberg's GreeNYC plan. In January, he …

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Reshaping market economies

A reply to Shellenberger & Nordhaus

It's rare for any environmental book to receive the attention garnered by Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger's Break Through, particularly outside the usual green circles. Anything that prompts conversation on these issues is, in and of itself, a good thing. So one hesitates to point out that beneath all the hype -- the "death" of this, the "fundamental break" from that -- the book's arguments are fairly modest. Banal even. The word from the "bad boys of environmentalism" is that environmentalists should be more positive and support greater public investment in clean energy technology. Well ... OK. The argument about …

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Putting your inner political superego on hold

A utopian realist agenda

Recently Nordhaus and Shellenberger (N&S) posted on Gristmill, wrote in The New Republic, and published a book, all with the aim of offering a better alternative to the mainstream environmental agenda. In my estimation, they made three important points: Americans would respond to a positive vision of the future; global warming can only be solved if, in addition to regulatory policies, we embark on a program of public investment; and the public is quite open to the idea of public investment. Unfortunately, they didn't do much with that great start. I think I know why: the central thrust of the …

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Hint: Two words that both start with 'c'

Why $100-per-barrel oil would be no big deal

At current levels of around $80 per barrel, oil prices have leapt nearly eightfold since 1998. Many observers would have predicted economic disaster from such a leap, but the global economy just keeps chugging along. An interesting article in Saturday's Wall Street Journal reports that many analysts figure that $100/barrel oil is on the way -- and that the global economy will shrug that off, too. I was working in Mexico as a finance reporter in 1998-99, and wrote some about the first stages of the oil rally. Back then, most analysts seemed to figure that oil would settle around …