Environment Forum

from Commodity Corner:

Getting down to business at U.N. climate talks a hard task

A U.N. concession to delegates at this week's climate talks in Bonn to take off jackets and ties due to recent high temperatures may be going to some participants' heads.

Breaking the back of negotiations for a new climate pact after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012 is proving hard work even though the talks' chair hopes to have a new negotiating text on the table by the end of the week.

Developing nations are still blaming the rich for global warming and the issue of who will contribute most to climate financing is still a matter for debate.

A year-end meeting in Cancun looms closer and the pressure is on to get the job done.
Yet, the acronyms being bandied around -- LULUCF, CDM, AAU, AWG-KP, AWG-LCA, REDD, to name a few -- are enough to make your head swim.

Even a Chinese negotiator on Tuesday admitted he did not understand a complicated forestry and land use presentation the previous day by the European Union.

Power utilities want less of your business

Tarya Seagraves-Quee loads laundry into the washing machine at a laundromat in Cambridge, Massachusetts July 8, 2009.    REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Avoid mopping your floor, laundry and washing your dishes during the day and save energy in the process – that’s what power utilities in the U.S. are telling customers this summer.

Heard this before?

The difference is this year, heat waves have already caused blackouts and power-grid strain across the country, and it’s only mid-July. This begs the question: Do power utilities want less of your business?

Heat waves last month meant increased cooling needs – up as much as 76 percent in some regions – which adds in turn to the threat of power outages.

The Green Gauge: Chevron slides on oil spill news

ECUADOR-CHEVRON-TEXACO TRAIL

The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico strikes close to home for Chevron as it faces a $27 billion lawsuit brought on by the indigenous people in the Amazon region of Ecuador for water pollution, and a fresh Chevron oil spill in Utah, a bi-weekly analysis of companies in the news by ASSET4 data providers shows.

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.

Here is a breakdown of the companies that made headlines June 5 to June 18 for winning or losing credibility based on environment-related activity.

Brazen disregard, from the wellhead to the tap

erinandben

– Erin Brockovich is an environmental investigator and activist and Ben Adlin writes social commentary and is a former Coro Fellow in Public Affairs. Any opinions expressed here are their own. —

As the wreckage of the now-infamous wellhead continues to spew oil and gas into the Gulf of Mexico, evidence of environmental fallout comes streaming in.

Pictures of oil-soaked pelicans and dying dolphins emphasize our blight on land and sea.

The Green Gauge: Rio Tinto takes a hit

AUSTRALIA

Global miner Rio Tinto enters the spotlight this week as one of its uranium mines in Australia leaks toxins into a river leading to the wetlands of the Kakadu National Park, a bi-weekly analysis of companies in the news by ASSET4 data providers shows.

Here is a breakdown of the companies that made headlines May 22 to June 4 for winning 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.

MMS “cozy” with industry? Hardly

JDH 2– John Hofmeister is founder and CEO of Citizens for Affordable Energy, former president of Shell Oil Company and author of Why We Hate the Oil Companies: Straight Talk from an Energy Insider. Any views expressed here are his own. –

How bad, really, was the Minerals Management Service (MMS)?

The quick answer is no one will ever know.

Despite all the accusations of a “cozy” relationship with industry, the recent termination of President Obama’s appointee who served less than a year, as well as the re-organization by the Interior Department suggest that any sleaze has been swept aside by political calculations in the rush to assert that the administration is on top of things in Washington.

I must admit I was surprised to hear of this cozy relationship, since my experience with the MMS was exactly the opposite.

Boom or bust in oil spill fight

The giant Gulf of Mexico oil spill is breaching some of the apparently threadbare defenses that are being used contain it.

The National Wildlife Federation took a group of journalists on Thursday on a tour of some of the affected south Louisiana wetlands. Scientists on the tour took samples of oil that have washed into wild cane fields that tower more than 10 feet above the water.

OIL-RIG/LEAK

The smell of oil hung thickly in the humid air and its presence was clear at the base of the green cane and reeds, which was darkly discolored.

Now is not the time to research oil cleanup

rona

– Rona Fried, Ph.D., is CEO of SustainableBusiness.com, a news and networking site for green businesses: including a green jobs service and a green investing newsletter.  Any views expressed here are her own. —

Before the catastrophic BP oil drilling failure, polls showed that Americans favored oil drilling as a safe way to increase our energy independence. This was after decades of polls trending in the opposite direction.

Are Americans learning something from this?

I submit that Americans have become too trusting and complacent toward multinational corporations – will this be a wake-up call? Since the Obama Administration came into office, we’ve seen stark reminders of corporate greed and lack of appropriate regulatory oversight in just about every industry – the recent coal mining accidents, the outrageous behavior of Wall Street firms, a health care industry that raises premiums 40 percent even in the face of regulation, and now an oil industry that proves it’s completely unprepared to deal with an accident.

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.

Oil is on the beach – now what?

OIL-RIG/LEAK

–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.

  •