Environment Forum

Muddled up in climate politics

Piero Quinci handles his dog as Monique Johnson (R) looks on near a beach front polling place at the Los Angeles County lifeguard station in Hermosa Beach, California November 2, 2010. REUTERS/David McNew

Asher Miller is executive director of think tank Post Carbon Institute. Any opinion expressed here is his own.

For those of us hoping for substantive climate or energy legislation in the near future, Tuesday’s election was a mixed bag at best.

And that’s after having lowered our expectations following Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-NV) decision to pull the plug on advancing the American Power Act back in July.

If Democrats couldn’t muster the votes or political capital with majorities in both houses of Congress, there was little chance following a mid-term election that was sure to weaken their hold.

Tuesday’s bright spot came out of California, where the state’s 2006 landmark climate legislation (CA AB32) was upheld by voters who either didn’t buy the argument made by Proposition 23 proponents that AB32 would hurt the economy or didn’t take well to out-of-state oil companies telling them what to do. Yet even this “victory” is a mixed bag.

Detroit vs. Silicon Valley as green auto hub

Composite image shows an aerial view of downtown Detroit (left) October 16, 2006 REUTERS/Molly Riley, and a view of a rainbow over San Jose City, California, Feb. 5, 2009 REUTERS/Juan Carlos Ulate

There’s a debate touring its way around the blogosphere these days: should the new green auto industry be based in Motor City Detroit or shiny, happy Silicon Valley?

The Valley in southern San Fransisco Bay area is already a hub for electronics expertise – certainly a cornerstone in the pursuit for innovative design and engineering. The world’s largest high-tech companies, including Apple, Google, Facebook, and Intel are headquartered there.

The culture of the region, a recent NPR series pointed out, is “where people are used to taking a chip, a cell or an idea and working on it until it becomes something big.”

The Green Gauge: Kimberly-Clark, NCR face pollution charges

A freight train on the Wisconsin Central Railroad lines crosses the Fox River on the south edge of Vernon Marsh Wildlife Area in a view from the town of Mukwonago, Wisconsin June 10, 2008.    REUTERS/Allen Fredrickson

Leading this week’s Green Gauge, a breakdown of companies in the news for behavior affecting the environment, are Kimberly-Clark and NCR who are being sued along with seven others for PCB pollution dating back more than 50 years.

Selections of headlines about publicly-traded companies 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.

bot25 Kimberly-Clark Corp. and NCR Corp.

The long-lasting risks of environmental pollution were revealed recently, as the U.S. Department of Justice filed a major law suit against Kimberly-Clark, NCR, and nine other companies to pay for continued clean-up and environmental restoration work relating to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) pollution in Wisconsin’s Fox River and Green Bay from the mid-1950s to the early 1970s.  Although $300 million has already been paid for clean-up efforts at the site, the Department of Justice claims that $550 million of additional clean-up and $400 million of natural resource restoration work is still required.  The lawsuit claims that the companies originally responsible for the pollution have resisted taking full financial responsibility for the  clean-up costs as well as the efforts necessary to repair the long-term damage to natural resources that resulted from the pollution.

The Green Gauge: Vedanta, Sterlite ordered to shut smelter

A bird flies by the Vedanta office building in Mumbai August 16, 2010. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

This month, Vedanta Resources and subsidiary Sterlite Industries (India) Ltd. made headlines for posing a public health risk to the surrounding community in southern India with pollution from a large copper smelter. They share the top spot in this issue of The Green Gauge, a breakdown of companies recently in the news for winning or losing credibility based on environment-related activity.

Selections of companies 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.

bot25 Vedanta Resources, Sterlite Industries (India) Ltd.
Vedanta Resources faces a new environmental setback in India after a Madras High Court ordered the closure of a large copper smelter at Tuticorin belonging to Vedanta’s Indian subsidiary, Sterlite Industries. Claiming that “the right to have a living atmosphere congenial to human existence is part of the right to life,” the Madras court argued that toxic emissions from the copper smelter, the 9th largest in the world, posed a public health risk to the surrounding community. The Indian Supreme Court granted permission for the facility to continue to operate while Vedanta appeals the verdict.

True or false? Online shopping greener than the mall

Mario Gagarin, who works for United Parcel Service, balances packages as he makes deliveries in Dulles International Airport in Dulles, Virginia, July 22, 2010. REUTERS/Hyungwon Kang  Unless you’re in the habit of purchasing bulk orders when you shop online, you can ditch the notion you are helping the environment by skipping a trip to the mall, a recent study has found.

New research by The Institution of Engineering and Technology at Newcastle University in Britain shows online shoppers must order more than 25 items to have any less impact on the environment than traditional shopping due to resources required for shipping and handling.

The study looked at “rebound” effects — or unintended side-effects of policies designed to reduce carbon emissions — of activities that are commonly thought to be green.

Solar-powered Jets

New York Jets players take to the field for their final regular season game at Giant Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, January 3, 2010.  REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine

The New York Jets have reached for the brightest star of all – the sun.

On Tuesday, the NFL team announced completion of the largest  solar power system in the National Football League at its headquarters in Florham Park, New Jersey.

The system, made by Yingli Green Energy, is the latest in a series of attempts made by the Chinese solar company to stand out in an increasingly crowded solar space.

Earlier this year, Yingli jostled for space with some of the biggest brands in the world, including McDonald’s, Coca Cola, Budweiser and Emirates during the most anticipated sporting event of the year — the soccer World Cup.

The future of carbon reporting

Liz Logan and Kangos
– Liz Logan is a partner in PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Sustainability and Climate Change practice and leads the company’s efforts as adviser to the Carbon Disclosure Project. Doug Kangos is a PwC partner who focuses on assisting companies respond to demands of greenhouse gas emissions and sustainability reporting. Any views expressed here are their own. –

Carbon reporting by U.S.-based companies today has broad similarities to financial reporting before the enactment of the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934. Just as market forces and regulation evolved then, so too now are we seeing a similar trend.

We expect that within this decade, more companies will regard carbon as significant and will develop and implement increasingly sophisticated and accurate programs to track, manage and report emissions data. And to the extent that carbon emissions are monetized through, for example, a cap-and-trade system, they will become subject to conventional accounting and reporting, with their demands for high levels of accuracy, reliability and timeliness.

Special report: Ten years of oil spills

oil-spills700

The Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico and subsequent oil leak this summer captured urgent intellectual efforts of leading scientists around the world.

Though it was the largest marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry, it was not the first oil spill nor will it be the last.

To date, scientific studies and published reports on the topic number in the hundreds of thousands. After two months of sorting these reports, Thomson Reuters’ Science Watch is releasing their findings in an extensive Special Topic report with the  most influential research on oil spills, from remediation (including dispersants) to bioindicators.  Citation data from January 2000 to June 2010 was approached from various angles, and trends and anomalies emerge handily.

The Green Gauge: Shale developers hit speed bumps

A pedestrian walks near a no drilling sign in Eagles Mere, Pennsylvania, September 5, 2010. In the rush to develop America's biggest new source of domestic energy, one community is fighting to protect its rural way of life from the environmental strains that accompany shale gas drilling.  REUTERS/Tim Shaffer

Development of shale gas has attracted myriad fans and enemies in recent months: those who cheer a source of natural gas on the home turf of the U.S. and environmentalists who warn the process to release the gas underground risks contaminating drinking water.

This month, Chesapeake Energy, Denbury Resources and Southwest Energy Co. each made headlines for environmental mishaps, and share the top spot in this issue of The Green Gauge, a breakdown of companies that made headlines Sept. 6 to Sept 19 for winning or losing credibility based on environment-related activity.

Selections of companies 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.

Jay Leno’s garage: a lot of EVs

The fact that comedian Jay Leno has a serious collection of cars in his 17,000 square-foot-garage in southern California may not surprise fans, but his soft spot for electric and hybrid vehicles most likely will turn a few heads.

In this exclusive interview with GigaOM‘s Green Overdrive crew, the host of “The Tonight Show” opens the door to his solar-powered home for dozens and dozens of cars for an animated tour of his collection, including three cherished vintage electric models from the 1900s.

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