Environment Forum

from DealZone:

Tony Blair now advising Silicon Valley VC

Silicon Valley venture capital fund Khosla Ventures has roped in former British prime minister Tony Blair as senior advisor, hoping to leverage his international connections and geopolictical expertise.

Menlo Park, California-based Khosla Ventures is among the most active early stage investors in renewables and other alternative energy technologies. Founder Vinod Khosla, a well-known figure in the Silicon Valley technology circuit, himself was an early backer of biofuels.

Former British prime minister is now advising Khosla Ventures

Former British prime minister is now advising Khosla Ventures

Blair is not the first high-profile politician to join a Silicon Valley venture fund. Former U.S. Secreatry of State Colin Powell is closely associated with Kleiner Perkins and serves on the board of one of its portfolio companes, fuel cell maker Bloom.

Khosla Ventures' many clean technology investments include solar thermal company Ausra, geothermal company AltaRock and biofuels makers Mascoma, Coskata, Range Fuels and Verenium.

Blair said he met Khosla, who left Kleiner in 2004 to form Khosla Ventrures, at an environmental conference in the Middle East and was "just fascinated" with the VC's view of approaching climate change and green technology.

Oil-soaked sand along Gulf Coast raises memories of Exxon Valdez

Oil on BeachA handful of oily sand grabbed from a Louisiana wetland brought back some strong memories for Earl Kingik. As a traditional hunter and whaler in Alaska’s Arctic, it reminded him of the Exxon Valdez spill. As he and other tribal leaders toured the U.S. Gulf Coast for signs of the BP oil spill, they worried that what’s happening now in Louisiana could happen if offshore drilling proceeds off the Alaskan coast.

“There’s no way to clean up an oil spill in the Arctic,” said Kingik, an Inupiat tribal member from Point Hope, Alaska. Compared to Louisiana, where the waters are relatively calm and cleanup equipment and experts are nearby, the Arctic Ocean is a hostile place for oil and gas exploration. The Arctic leaders made their pilgrimage to the Gulf Coast as part of a campaign to block planned exploratory drilling by Shell Oil  in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas.

4 looking out windows“What I saw was devastating out there,” Martha Falk, the tribal council treasurer of the Inupiat Community of the Arctic Slope in Alaska, said after the Gulf Coast tour by seaplane, boat and on foot. If the same thing occurred off Alaska, she said, “We would have to wait days and days and days for (cleanup) equipment to reach our area.”

Are whales and dolphins smart enough to get special rights?

whaleSome conservationists and experts on philosophy and ethics reckon that whales and dolphins are so intelligent that they should be given rights to life like humans. That could mean extra pressure on whalers in Japan, Norway and Iceland to end their hunts.

The focus on rights is a shift after conservationists successfully won a ban on almost all whale hunts from 1986, arguing that they had been harpooned close to extinction.

And in recent years (with evidence that some stocks are big enough to withstand hunts), many opponents say the moratorium should stay in place, arguing that shooting grenade-tipped harpoons at whales can mean a long, cruel death.

Deepwater drilling is inappropriate, period


Jean-Michel Cousteau is an environmentalist, documentary producer, president of Ocean Futures Society and the son of ocean explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau. He has produced over 70 films, including the documentary series Ocean Adventures in 2006. Any views expressed here are his own. –

In the midst of desperate attempts to stem the flow of oil and the agony of waiting to understand its effects, we are left with simple questions like what exactly is happening to the waters of the Gulf of Mexico? And how quickly can we move from dependence on oil to a sustainable, renewable energy policy?

Absolutely no one knows the damage being done throughout the mile-deep water column. Crude oil and gas are gushing out at a few thousand pounds per square inch of pressure.

The Green Gauge: BP’s environmental history scrutinized

The ongoing struggle in the Gulf of Mexico to contain and remove oil spilling from a ruptured deepwater well is damaging more than the environment, a bi-weekly analysis of companies in the news by ASSET4 data providers shows.

Here is a breakdown of the companies that made headlines Apr. 23 to May 7 for making or losing credibility based on environment-related activity.

Company selections were made by Christopher Greenwald, director of data content at ASSET4, a Thomson Reuters business that provides investment research on the environmental, social and governance performance of major global corporations. These ratings are not recommendations to buy or sell.

from Tales from the Trail:

Former political enemies join hands to save the world?

Nearly six years ago,  Senator John Kerry and Texas oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens were mortal political enemies.

As a major backer of President George W. Bush's re-election effort in 2004, Pickens contributed millions to a right-wing ad campaign questioning Kerry's record as a Vietnam war hero. The ads, which Kerry disputed, put him on the defensive and may have contributed to the Democrat's failure to win the White House.

kerry_pickensOn Wednesday, the billionaire and the Massachusetts senator sat side-by-side in the Capitol's ornate Senate Foreign Relations Committee room, where Kerry presides as its chairman.

So long, sardines? Lake Tanganyika hasn’t been this warm in 1,500 years

lake_tanganyika1_hEast Africa’s Lake Tanganyika might be getting too hot for sardines.

The little fish have been an economic and nutritional mainstay for some 10 million people in neighboring Burundi, Tanzania, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo — four of the poorest countries on Earth. They also depend on Lake Tanganyika for drinking water.

But that could change, according to research published in the online version of the journal Nature Geoscience. Using samples of the lakebed that chart a 1,500-year history of the lake’s surface water temperature, the scientists found the current temperature — 78.8 degrees F (26 degrees C) — is the warmest it’s been in a millennium and a half. And that could play havoc with sardines and other fish the local people depend on.

The scientists also found that the lake saw its biggest warm-up in the 20th century.

Oil is on the beach – now what?


–Dan Howells is deputy campaigns director for Greenpeace USA. Any views expressed here are his own.–

On repeated trips over the last couple of weeks, Greenpeace found the first traces of oil coming ashore at Port Eads, the southernmost tip of Louisiana.

Greenpeace’s mission in the Gulf is to bear witness and record what might be the biggest environmental disaster of our lifetime and to provide independent assessment of the harm that is being done to the ecosystem, and share stories of what we are seeing.

Biologist pleads guilty to snaring rare jaguar


An Arizona biologist who illegally snared an extremely rare borderlands jaguar that later died of kidney failure, has been sentenced to five years probation and fined $1,000, authorities said on Friday.

Emil McCain, 31, a jaguar biologist and co-founder of the Borderlands Jaguar Detection Project, pleaded guilty to a “prohibited take” of an endangered species in federal district court in Tucson on Friday, the United States Attorney’s Office said in a news release.

McCain was involved in a project studying jaguars, which roam over a vast area ranging from northern Argentina in the south to the rugged borderlands of Arizona and New Mexico, where they were thought to have vanished until two confirmed sightings in 1996.

U.N. climate panel under review: no stranger to controversy

glaciersipccThe U.N. panel of climate scientists came under the microscope on Friday by  experts named by the United Nations to figure out how to restore faith in its work after errors including an exaggeration of the thaw of the Himalayas. 

They’ll have to write clearly, check their findings and avoid overstating their case (sounds like a journalism manual). But how? And are there only isolated slips, or a wider problem? Also, why hasn’t the panel learn more from past controversies?

Rajendra Pachauri (below right), chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, acknowledged at the start of the session in Amsterdam there had been errors in the last major report in 2007 — but said the did not detract from the overall conclusions that warming is under way and that people are very likely to be the cause by burning fossil fuels.