Business & Technology

What I saw at the Summit

Thoughts from the big organic confab in Boulder

Attending last week’s Organic Summit, held within the tasteful confines of the St. Julien Hotel and Spa in Boulder, was a very, well, organic experience. It started with the hotel itself. The St. Julien, a human-scale building right in downtown Boulder, exudes calm. The lobby, a light, airy space overlooking a sun-dappled garden with mountain views behind, practically echoes with a low and relaxing ohhhmmm. As far as accommodations, I get drowsy just thinking about the sheets, whose thread count approaches infinity. Walk out into the rich-but-not-too-hot sun, and you find eminently walkable, liveable downtown Boulder, not the brutalist food-and-coffee …

Milk jug gets a makeover

Another example of how carbon constraints may benefit big box retailers

Wal-Mart and Costco have adopted a version of the one-gallon milk jug designed with efficiency in mind. The boxier containers stack better, eliminating the need for milk crates and conserving space in trucks and on refrigerated store shelves: The company estimates this kind of shipping has cut labor by half and water use by 60 to 70 percent. More gallons fit on a truck and in Sam's Club coolers, and no empty crates need to be picked up, reducing trips to each Sam's Club store to two a week, from five -- a big fuel savings. Also, Sam's Club can now store 224 gallons of milk in its coolers, in the same space that used to hold 80.

Do plug-ins dream of electric horses?

VW to join Toyota, GM with 2010 plug-in hybrid

The following post is by Earl Killian, guest blogger at Climate Progress. ----- The German government announced it will be helping to fund VW's plug-in hybrid development program with 15 million euros. VM aims for a 2010 vehicle with 31 miles of all-electric range. VW head Martin Winterkorn said that while petrol or diesel powered cars would be around for some time to come, "the future belongs to all-electric cars." According to autoblog, the Twin Drive uses a 82-hp electric motor and a 2.0L turbodiesel producing 122 hp. VW recently signed a deal with Sanyo, which is aggressively ramping up automotive lithium-ion battery production. It expects the hybrid and plug-in hybrid markets to be 4 to 4.5 million vehicles by 2015, and aims to capture 40 percent of this market. Sanyo uses a mixture of Ni, Mn, and Co for the positive electrode, thereby producing a safer battery that exhibits power retention ratio of 80 percent or higher after 10,000 cycles (10-15 years in a hybrid vehicle). Last week, Daimler announced it would bring an electric car to market in 2010. For more on plug ins, see "Turn on, plug in, drop out." This post was created for ClimateProgress.org, a project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

Airlines must pay for emissions, E.U. says

All flights into, out of, and within the European Union will be included in the bloc’s emissions-trading scheme as of 2012, the E.U. Parliament decided Thursday. If the plan is given final approval, airlines will have to cut emissions 3 percent in 2012 and 5 percent per year from 2013 on. Airlines would buy 15 percent of their emissions permits from the E.U.; the rest would be allocated for free. Big Air Travel strongly opposes the plan, saying it would be extra expense for an already struggling industry. The United States is also opposed, and insists that forcing non-European airlines …

New coal plant approved in Virginia, may fuel mountaintop-removal mining

An embattled $1.8 billion coal plant slated for Wise County, Va., was granted pollution permits Wednesday by a state regulatory board, allowing construction to proceed. The company that will be building the 585-megawatt plant, Dominion Resources, promised local officials it would only source coal from within Virginia; that move is expected to fuel increased mountaintop-removal mining in the state. Air officials were quick to point out that they issued permits for air pollution at drastically lower levels than Dominion had requested — some 80 percent lower for both sulfur dioxide and mercury. As part of the deal, Dominion agreed to …

Auto industry loses suit to sink California vehicle emissions standards

A federal judge has struck down the auto industry’s attempt to gut California’s greenhouse-gas emissions standards for vehicles. California’s law, which would cut vehicle emissions by some 30 percent by 2016, has been stalled due to the U.S. EPA’s denial of a waiver the state needs to implement it. However, the industry lawsuit sought to stop the emissions-reduction law from taking effect even if a new federal administration eventually granted the waiver. The auto industry has complained that the California rules would be far too expensive and would essentially create different fuel-economy rules for California and the 15 other states …

Business sense

BP, Shell, Airbus, and other multinationals call for 50 percent emission cuts by 2050

The CEOs of 100 large multinational corporations -- including companies from carbon-intense industries -- have signed a World Economic Forum statement [PDF] that calls on the G8 to create a strategy to cut global greenhouse-gas emissions by at least 50 percent by 2050. The G8 will be meeting in Japan next month, and Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda will be pushing hard for an agreement on climate change. Notable signatories to the statement: Airbus, British Airways, BP, Duke Energy, DuPont, Electricite de France, Entergy, E.ON, Michelin, Petrobras, Renault, Rolls-Royce, and Shell. Are pigs flying? Not quite.

Home Depot will collect CFLs for recycling

Home Depot announced Tuesday that it will collect compact fluorescent light bulbs and send them off to be recycled. The home-improvement behemoth hopes the new program will keep the bulbs, which contain a small amount of mercury, out of household trash and recycling bins. IKEA also collects CFLs for recycling but doesn’t have the market saturation of Home Depot; more than three-quarters of U.S. households are estimated to be within 10 miles of a Home Depot store. The company’s 1,973 U.S. stores will also switch to CFLs in light-fixture showrooms by the fall, a move expected to save it $16 …

U.S. Supreme Court rejects asbestos company’s appeal, clearing way for trial

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from asbestos company W.R. Grace, clearing the way for a long-awaited criminal trial to begin. The company and six of its executives were indicted in 2005 on charges of violating the Clean Air Act by allegedly releasing asbestos-contaminated vermiculite from a mine in Libby, Mont., between 1963 and 1990, when the mine closed; the executives have also been charged with knowingly endangering the lives of mine workers and town residents. Some 300 of Libby’s 2,600 residents have died from asbestos-related diseases and many hundreds more have been sickened. If convicted at …

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