Business & Technology

E.U. Parliament approves plan to require airline emissions reductions

A European Union plan to bring the airline industry into its carbon-trading market has just passed the E.U. Parliament, angering many airlines, the United States, and other countries. Parliament voted to require steeper emissions cuts than the E.U. Commission’s relatively weaker airline plan. Under the amended version, by 2011, all airlines flying within or into the E.U. would be required to reduce their emissions 10 percent below their 2004-2006 average or buy credits from other airlines that came in under the target. The proposal must now get approval from E.U. country governments and E.U. ministers before it can become law. …

Who will reincarnate the electric car?

Automakers want to delay the transition to electric vehicles

The following is a guest essay by Marc Geller, who blogs at Plugs and Cars, serves on the board of directors of the Electric Auto Association, cofounded Plug In America and DontCrush.com, and appeared in Who Killed The Electric Car. ----- The IEEE Spectrum Magazine for November 2007 touts on its cover: "Battery or Fuel-Cell Cars? A California Cabal Will Decide." Interesting choice of headlines. Surely a strong argument can be made that something approaching a cabal turned a practical electric-cars-on-the-road mandate into a research and development program for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Carmakers are desirous of delaying the inevitable but problematic move to electric drive. Oil companies shut out of electric markets are exploring biofuels and hydrogen as potential markets they could control. Academics awash in government and corporate grants analyse and research biofuels and hydrogen. The problem with electric is it is here now. Proven, ready to market. No significant need for research. Batteries could always use a nudge, but the 100-plus-mile battery has existed for over a decade. Price needs to come down by a factor of two at most, not a factor of 100. Economies of scale, baby! Facts are facts. Not five years ago we had thousands (about 6,000, to be exact) of battery electrics as daily drivers for consumers like you and me and utility fleets like PG&E and SCE. Thanks to Plug In America's predecessor DontCrush.com, about 1000 of those cars still drive today on the original batteries using existing electric infrastructure. Their owners love them, and when one appears on the used car market it sells for more than the $42,000 original MSRP.

Climate change could put millions out of work, says U.N.

Not only is climate change not a hoax manufactured by dirty hippies who hope to put every American out of a job, global warming is real enough to, um, put millions of people out of jobs, United Nations officials said yesterday. At a meeting of the International Labor Organization, the heads of the U.N. climate and weather agencies noted that work in the tourism and fisheries industries could be particularly threatened by climate change. And that’s not to mention those who could be forced to leave their jobs — and homes and communities — because of severe weather. On the …

Just the big-box facts

New tool helps groups assess large retail proposals

Big-box stores have significant impacts on a community's economy, environment, and character. The Big Box Evaluator (created by the Orton Family Foundation, which offers numerous programs that aid good land-use planning) is a new online tool designed to help citizens, activists, and municipal officials get the basics on these impacts in an unbiased manner. It's interactive, and lets you plug in variables like tax rates, community demographics, size of a hypothetical big-box proposal, and much more. The outcome is a well-rounded assessment of probable impacts, the good as well as the bad, which will help its users ask important questions when proposals like this come to town.

Target asks USDA to let it label meat treated with carbon monoxide

Under pressure from Democrats in Congress, Target Corp. has asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to let it attach warning labels to meat it sells that has been treated with carbon monoxide to make it appear fresher than it is. The proposed label reads: “CONSUMER NOTICE: Carbon monoxide has been used to preserve the color of this product. Do not rely on color or the ‘use or freeze by’ date alone to judge the freshness of the product. For best results please follow the Safe Handling Instructions.” In the wake of recent food-safety scares, other companies such as Safeway and …

Al Gore joins big-name venture-capital firm, will focus on green investment

Former vice president Al Gore has joined a notable venture-capital firm that’s aiming to step up investment in green businesses. In his role as a partner at California-based firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Gore will investigate the potential growth of alternative-energy start-up companies and counsel the firm on related greenish investments. No stranger to capitalism, Gore has been a big advocate of “free trade” and was VP when NAFTA kicked in (um, thanks?). In 2004, he co-founded green investment firm Generation Investment Management with David Blood. GIM now handles $1.5 billion in investments, and under the deal with Kleiner …

How 'bout investing in Chinese coal?

Maybe get filthy rich

Now that the U.S. housing market has cooled off, American investors are looking to the Chinese coal industry. Another risky proposition, but for different reasons. As China's appetite for coal is booming, American investors and businesses are cashing in. American pension and mutual fund money is being invested in the Chinese coal industry ... "In general, they're doing a very smart thing," said Mike Tian, an analyst with independent investment research company Morningstar. "That's where the money is."

A green wave lifts all boats

Van Jones looks to sustainability for pathways out of poverty

Will the burgeoning "green" economy have a place in it for everyone? To a packed auditorium in Seattle last Wednesday, Van Jones said: It can. And to be successful, it has to. In the chorus of voices against climate change, his message rings true and clear: "We have a chance to connect the people who most need work with the work that most needs to be done." Van Jones is a civil-rights lawyer and founder and executive director of an innovative nonprofit working to ensure that low-income, working poor, and minority youth have access to the coming wave of "green-collar" jobs. Jones -- brought to Seattle by Climate Solutions, King County, El Centro de la Raza, Puget Sound Sage, and Earth Ministry -- made a compelling case that social justice is the moral anchor required to fuse the climate movement into a powerful and cohesive force. He sees that the solutions to global warming are the solutions to the biggest social and economic problems in urban and rural America. His point is this: You can pass all the climate legislation you want, but you have to provide the local workforce to make it happen on the ground. "We have to retrofit a nation," he says. "No magical green fairies are going to come down and put up all those solar panels." This is going to take skilled labor. "We can make a green pathway out of poverty." And it gets better, he says. These jobs can't be outsourced. "You can't put a building on a barge to Asia and weatherize it on the cheap." This is about kitchen table issues: jobs, industry, manufacturing, health, education.

Kansas, Minnesota pledge to green up government computer systems

Think of states that are environmental frontrunners, and Kansas and Minnesota may not leap immediately to mind. But it’s those two that are taking the lead in reducing energy use from government computer systems. Teaming up with the industry-backed Climate Savers Computing Initiative, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) and Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D) — whose states each buy more than 4,000 computers annually — have pledged to purchase energy-efficient hardware and servers and install controls that put state computers to sleep around 5:30 each evening. Pop-up reminder to stop working and go to happy hour not included.

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