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Global food giants get bad grades on environment and ethics


They may have located our ideal bliss points, but multinational food companies are far from hitting the mark when it comes to treating workers and the environment decently.

A new "Behind the Brands" report from Oxfam rates "10 of the world's most powerful food and beverage companies" on their ethics: Coca-Cola, Mars, Nestle, Kellogg's, General Mills, Associated British Foods, PepsiCo, Unilever, Danone, and Mondelez International (previously known as Kraft). Surprise: They didn't do very well. The highest grade was a 38 out of 70.

From the report:


Climate change could kill big U.S. reservoirs

Western states fighting for each other's water may be missing the big picture. As climate change continues, many regions of the U.S. will get hotter and drier, so much so that some of the nation's most important reservoirs could dry up, according to a new study by researchers at Colorado State University, Princeton, and the U.S. Forest Service. From the study:

Although precipitation is projected to increase in much of the United States with future climate change, in most locations that additional precipitation will merely accommodate rising evapotranspiration demand in response to temperature increases. Where the effect of rising evapotranspiration exceeds the effect of increasing precipitation, and where precipitation actually declines, as is likely in parts of the Southwest, water yields are projected to decline. For the United States as a whole, the declines are substantial, exceeding 30% of current levels by 2080 for some scenarios examined.

The study includes a number of maps showing how water might dry up under different scenarios. Here are ones showing projected changes in water yields in 2020, 2040, 2060, and 2080 under a somewhat middle-of-the-road scenario:


More dramatic scenarios see reservoirs such as Lake Mead and Lake Powell drying up completely.

Read more: Climate & Energy


Pro-fracking petition with fake signatures embarrasses gas association

The oil and gas industry's amateur attempt to mislead Fort Collins lawmakers
The oil and gas industry's amateur attempt to mislead Fort Collins lawmakers.

Outlawing fracking in Fort Collins makes local business owners sad. At least, that's what liars working for the Colorado Oil and Gas Association tried to tell local lawmakers.

Anders’ Auto Glass, Meneike Car Care Center, and Computer Renaissance were among 55 businesses whose names appeared with signatures on a petition that the association submitted to Fort Collins City Council. The petition urged city councilors to vote against a proposed ban on fracking within the city.

The petition failed. Following a two-hour Feb. 19 hearing, the council voted 5-2 to ban hydraulic fracturing in Fort Collins.

But it turns out that none of those three businesses support fracking in their town, they told Fort Collins Coloradoan reporter Bobby Magill. Why on earth would they?


Blazing tires will no longer power Illinois homes

Tires should not be burned for electricity
Tires should not be burned for electricity.

Take a cloud of carbon monoxide. Mix in nitrogen oxide, sulfur oxide, and ammonia. Sprinkle it with a heap of soot.

That poisonous recipe is cooked up and released into the air when tires are burned. And it's what residents of the heavily polluted, low-income, predominantly black community of Ford Heights, Ill., have been breathing, on and off, since a tire-incinerating power plant began operating in their neighborhood in 1995.

But relief has finally arrived: Following a string of air pollution citations and a federal civil rights complaint, Geneva Energy has agreed to stop burning tires to generate electricity at the sprawling Cook County facility.

"This settlement will eliminate the source of almost 200 tons of air pollutants each year, in a community that has historically been disproportionately impacted by environmental contamination," EPA Regional Administrator Susan Hedman said in a statement on Monday.

The company began operating the incinerator in 2006. By 2010, it had been cited four times by state inspectors for pollution violations at the facility, at which point the EPA stepped in with the civil rights complaint, the Chicago Tribune reports. In 2011, the incinerator was switched off. In Monday's announcement, the EPA said that it had reached an agreement that prevents the company from switching the incinerator back on.

Read more: Climate & Energy


Can Yahoo be more ‘efficient’ with more workers driving to the office?

Marissa Mayer
Adam Tinworth
Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer puts the kibosh on telecommuting.

In a decision that sent the internet into a tizzy today, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer has decided that employees will no longer be allowed to telecommute to work. USA Today reports:

Yahoo's decision is meant to foster collaboration, according to a company memo sent to employees Friday.

Yahoo's head of human resources, Jackie Reses, wrote that communication and collaboration will be important as the company works to be "more productive, efficient and fun." To make that happen, she said, "it is critical that we are all present in our offices. Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people and impromptu team meetings."

According to Census figures from 2010, about 9.5 percent of the U.S. workforce telecommutes at least one day a week. That's actually not very much, considering telecommuting can be more productive for some workers, not to mention more comfortable. Millions of Americans working from home or local co-working spaces each day save millions of tons in emissions each year, and potentially cut down on traffic deaths.


Notoriously polluting Carnival Cruise Lines faces legal troubles

Sometimes when you float massive (and massively polluting) multimillion-dollar resort hotels on the high seas, you run into problems. As it happens, Carnival Cruise Lines has bumped up against a couple of big problems recently, ones that have migrated from the oceans to the courts.

Roberto Vongher

Passengers stranded on the Carnival cruise ship that was stuck in the Gulf of Mexico earlier this month have filed a lawsuit seeking damages for "mental and emotional anguish" sustained on their ill-fated trip. (Next time, might I humbly recommend a staycation?)


Organic tomatoes are healthier for you, researchers find

They may be smaller but they're also mightier. Organic tomatoes pack in more cancer-fighting phenols and vitamin C than conventionally grown tomatoes, according to research published in the journal PLOS ONE. But the organic tomatoes do tend to be about 40 percent tinier, so make sure your next tomato fight features the conventional kind.


From Mother Jones:

Read more: Food


Southern section of Keystone XL pipeline is already halfway done

President Obama and the State Department haven't approved the northern leg of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline that would cart tar-sands oil down from Canada, but the southern leg, which Obama blessed last year, is trucking right along. TransCanada says construction on the southern section, from Oklahoma to the Texas Gulf Coast, is about halfway complete.


From the Associated Press:

Nearly 4,000 workers in Oklahoma and Texas are aligning and welding a 485-mile section, TransCanada spokesman David Dodson told The Associated Press.

“We’re right at peak right now,” he said. “We hope to have it in operation by the end of this year.”

Where there's oil there's money, and where there's money there are job creators, right? At least so says TransCanada -- and in the short term, that's not wrong.


Canadians are feeling cocky about Keystone approval

"I heart Keystone XL" sign

A week after climate activists rallied in Washington, D.C., against plans to build the Keystone XL pipeline, Canada’s tar-sands salespeople arrived in the nation’s capital with the opposite pitch.

And the fossil-fuel hawkers from up north seem to think it’s their message that will win over America's decision makers.

Alberta Premier Alison Redford arrived Friday with her environment minister to attend the National Governors Association winter meeting, where the duo gauged the mood of officials and pitched the proposed pipeline, which would carry tar-sands oil from Canada to Gulf Coast refineries and ports.

The way Redford tells it, things went smashingly. “I’m very optimistic,” she told Canada's Postmedia News. “There is strong bipartisan support for this project.”


It’s too hot and muggy to work this century

It's getting too hot to get any work done
It's getting too hot to get any work done.

Think back to summer. No, no, don't think about the good times. Instead, try to remember what it was like when it was too stinkin' hot to get any work done.

Humans don't work so well when it's stinking hot. And that means that as the globe warms around us, we're doing less work. How much less? According to results of a study published Sunday in Nature Climate Change, humanity's summertime productivity has already fallen 10 percent since before the Industrial Revolution. And it's going to get worse.

Read more: Climate & Energy