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Stewards Jolly

Mega-corporations sign U.N.-sponsored climate compact More than 150 companies, including Ikea, Unilever, and Coca-Cola, have signed a U.N.-sponsored climate declaration that commits them to setting and reporting on emissions-reduction goals, while asking governments to enact a post-Kyoto, market-based plan. OK, it's a voluntary pact with a touchy-feely name -- "Caring for Climate: The Business Leadership Platform" -- but its very existence speaks volumes about changes in the business world. "Climate change is shaping global markets and global consumer attitudes," says U.N. Environment Program head Achim Steiner. "There will be winners and losers. Companies who ... evolve, innovate, and respond to …

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From SUVs to solar panels

Do higher MPG cars mean fewer jobs?

The Chicago Tribune has an article in today's paper entitled "MPG bill could cost UAW jobs; Workers fear SUV plant's fate sealed," although the article itself isn't as shrill as the title suggests. At first glance, the article looks like the classic "those environmentalists are going to take away your jobs" piece, but the author presents data for the other side, that is, that the problems of the auto industry are the problems of the managers of the auto industry: Higher fuel standards would affect all automakers but would hit the domestics harder because they sell a greater percentage of …

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That’s a Mighty Full Circular File

Faced with rampant pollution, China reports increase in citizen protests The sorry state of air and water quality in China has led to rising public protests, says a top environment agent there -- and citizens and officials alike are urging the country to crack down on polluters. In the first five months of 2007, the State Environmental Protection Administration received 1,814 citizen petitions demanding a cleaner environment, an 8 percent increase over the same time period last year. And there's plenty of room for improvement: last year, more than a quarter of the length of China's seven main river systems …

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Putting the Source Before the Cart

Regional grocery chains seek "organic retailer" certification In some mainstream grocery stores, organic options are shunted to the side, put in a sort of "Food for Freaks" section where only the bravest shoppers dare to tread. But increasingly, regional chains are getting certified as "organic retailers" and even -- gasp -- shelving organic food next to other edibles. Ohio-based Kroger, Minnesota-based Lunds, and Maine-based Hannaford Bros. have earned a government-backed seal of o-pproval; with organic food sales soaring from $6 billion in 2000 to $14 billion in 2005, such stores are eager to get in on the action. Certification requires …

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We Always Thought It Was Industrial Strength

McDonald's to power U.K. delivery fleet with its own grease Proving once again that everything's cooler in Europe, McDonald's has announced that it will run all its U.K. delivery vehicles on biodiesel -- from its own greasy grills! The chain will convert the 155-lorry fleet to a mix of 85 percent fry grease and 15 percent rapeseed oil by next year, and says the switch will cut its U.K. carbon emissions 75 percent. Mickey D's has already made a similar move in Austria, and is apparently drumming up other plans around packaging and recycling. All this comes on the heels …

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Romm's rules of carbon offsets

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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Planktos president responds to environmentalist critics

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 …