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Smithfield hogs the China market

Looking at an industrial-meat giant’s China deal

While PETA roils Gristmill and other greenie sites by brandishing climate change to promote vegetarianism, Smithfield Foods just keeps cranking out industrial meat. As I noted in last week's Victual Reality, the company recently announced a deal to sell 60 million pounds of pork to China. Since then, Smithfield has revealed details about how it will fill that order: by ramping up production at a slaughter facility in Sioux City, Iowa, hometown of one of the nation's most ambitious local-food initiatives. Reports Reuters: The [Sioux City] plant will begin processing an additional 3,200 hogs a day next week, or about …

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Investors petition SEC to require companies to disclose climate risk

Activists, investors, and activist investors have teamed up to try to compel the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to require publicly traded companies to disclose their climate-change risks. Under current law, the SEC requires companies to detail potential risks to investors in their annual and quarterly reports to the agency. The activists, armed with a petition, are seeking an "interpretive" release from the agency clarifying that climate risk, and the risks and benefits that could come from domestic climate legislation, should already be part of a company's financial reports. "This is about an investor's right to know," said a spokesperson …

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Discover Brilliant: The business of climate change

The final session of the day (hooray) is about "the business of climate change." On the panel: Climate Change Journal, Grant Ferrier, Editor (Moderator) Climate Solutions, K.C. Golden, Policy Director Sterling Planet, Alden Hathaway II, Senior VP, Business Development Environmental Resources Trust, Gordon Smith, EcoLands Director We start with Smith, who begins by, of all things, talking about forestry credits in carbon markets! He says they aren't attractive in the compliance (mandatory) carbon markets, but voluntary offset customers love them. And they're sketchy. But nonetheless, that's what he specializes in. Uh ... why? Doesn't say. Hathaway starts by talking about …

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Discover Brilliant: Business something something

Next up, a full panel of folks discussing sustainable business opportunities. On the stage: Mossadiq Umeday, chair of Xantrex Technology Inc., Andrew Mangan, executive director of the US Business Council for Sustainable Development, and John Kaestle, president and CEO of Halosource. ... Oh screw it. This one was so boring I could barely focus.

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Industry to Bush administration: “Please regulate me”

Long-standing shared love for voluntary standards aside, businesses and manufacturers have begun asking the Bush administration to begin regulating industry's health- and planet-ruining ways. A variety of factors have contributed to the turnaround, including tougher regulations enacted by states, a Congress unafraid to crack down, publicly apparent failures of voluntary standards, and a flood of low-priced, unsafe imports into the market. (Oh, and industry's deep commitment to public health and safety, of course.) Businesses also tend to appreciate the pro-industry approach of the Bush administration, which has shown willingness to write regulations with clauses that, say, disallow consumer lawsuits. But …

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Discover Brilliant: Intro

I'm here at the introductory talk at the Discover Brilliant conference. The focus of the three-day event is on those areas where entrepreneurial energy and profit overlap with lower environmental impact. Everyone is here to figure out who's making money, who's investing where, and what the next big tech will be. The vibe is refreshingly different from the usual green conference -- much more lively, lots more optimism, much less guilt. I'll be posting updates periodically over the next three days. Update [2007-9-17 9:38:49 by David Roberts]: This is kind of interesting: she says that as of today, energy, building, …

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Ecomagination and coal

As long as GE funds coal, its net impact is far from green

Let me pull a few excerpts from a recent WSJ story on the progress of GE's much-touted "ecomagination" campaign: "I don't want to change the economic flow of the company," [CEO Jeffrey] Immelt says. So GE continues to sell coal-fired steam turbines and is delving deeper into oil-and-gas production. Meanwhile, its finance unit seeks out coal-related investments including power plants, which are a leading cause of carbon-dioxide emissions in the U.S. ... Counting the emissions was a big challenge for a company with more than 3,000 facilities in 73 countries. One nettlesome question: How should GE count emissions from power …

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Cuomo arigato!

New York attorney general subpoenas energy companies over disclosure of coal-plant risks

A new weapon has been brought to bear in the war on coal, and it's aimed right at the corpulent industry's soft underbelly: risk. New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo just sent out a round of subpoenas to energy companies. He wants to see internal documents demonstrating that the companies -- AES Corporation, Dominion, Dynegy, Peabody Energy and Xcel Energy -- fully disclosed the financial risks of planned coal-fired power plants to investors. (This is Cuomo's twist on a once-obscure statute -- the Martin Act, a 1921 state securities law -- that his predecessor Eliot Spitzer revived and used to …

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The last refuge of scoundrels?

Greenwashing is getting more subtle

This article in Slate got me thinking. I'm usually inclined to believe that any greening of business is good, but it seems like "greenwashing" is getting more subtle, with the media playing right into it with their lavish features on new "green" initiatives, regardless of their content and effectiveness. Take-home point: better government policy is much more significant than any voluntary greening by business. Something we've always known, but always worth a reminder.

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It's the stupid economy

Why small may be more beautiful than ever

I spent the afternoon doing something I almost never get to do anymore: read the papers, namely The New York Times and Wall Street Journal. Here are some of the things I learned: Oil prices are testing new highs. The dollar continues its slide against the Euro, hitting an all-time low. A weak dollar means pricier imports. Prices on imported goods from China, essentially our manufacturing base, are rising alarmingly fast. (There's a labor shortage among skilled workers in China, the Journal reports: "While China's rural population represents a massive amount of untapped labor, skilled workers are in short supply.") …