Environment Forum

Who hates Al Gore?

Whenever Al Gore raises the bull’s-eye of global warming, darts start to fly — aimed at him.

Google the phrase “I hate Al Gore” and 42,000 entries appear, including a Facebook page called “Telling Al Gore he’s full of crap” that has 17,000 fans.

Critics of the former vice president and Nobel laureate point to his multiple homes and use of a private jet as hard-fast hypocrisy, and his investments in clean technology as a conflict of interest. Add to that the specter of an old misquote from a CNN interview that won’t go away, about “inventing the Internet.”

“If you believe that the reason I have been working on this issue for 30 years is because of greed, you don’t know me,” he told a House Energy and Commerce subcomittee in April 2009. “Do you think there’s something wrong with being active in business in this country? I am proud of it.”

So tonight, when Gore’s 24-hour multi-media presentation “24 Hours of Reality” hits screens around the world, viewers can watch for how the Oscar-winning environmentalist attempts to engage his most vocal critics – the ones who show up at speaking events with placards calling for him to debate climate science with them.

Green apps that can save you money

Media members try out the new "iPad" during the launch of Apple's new tablet computing device in San Francisco, California, January 27, 2010. REUTERS/Kimberly White

As the market for applications running on mobile devices like Apple’s iPad and iPhone grows, so do ways to save you money and cut your carbon emissions.

Among them is Avego, a ride-sharing app for the iPhone that lets you offer vacant seats in your car to others and search for free seats if you’re car-less, all in real time. You receive updates on how far away your ride is, so you don’t have to wait around. And it even calculates how much gas-money each passenger should pay. Users create a publicly viewable Avego profile and their reputation can be rated by other members. Paul Smith of Triple Pundit calls the service “brilliant” and an example of “what can be done to reduce traffic, right now, at no additional cost and disruption to our current transportation infrastructure”.

3rdWhaleMobile’s FindGreen app gives GPS-equipped Android smartphones, BlackBerry, and iPhone owners a guide to local retailers and services listed in GenGreen’s Green Business Directory. TechCrunch’s Matylda Czarnecka thought the iPhone version was one of the “top ten apps to make you more green“. But some users in Google’s Android Marketplace complain of few or no listings in their area.

Greenbuild 2010 round-up: less water, more light

Here’s a round-up of some of the participants at  Greenbuild 2010, which is filling eight football fields’ worth of  exhibition space in Chicago:

– The folks at Zero Flush—a company in Kissimmee, Florida that builds no-water, non-flushing urinals—started with this premise: water is precious; urinal maintenance is a nightmare.

Zero Flush—whose founders left competitors Falcon and Waterless—builds wall-fixed urinals  that it says save approximately 40,000 gallons of water per year and are  odor-free and easily maintained .

Powell blooms in retirement at green building expo

powell“Colin Powell is … an interesting choice for a convention on green building,”  said George Baños, a project manager attending the industry’s largest annual gathering.

Baños was one of thousands of people who assembled in a hangar-sized auditorium at McCormick Place near downtown Chicago this morning to hear the former Secretary of State’s opening address to Greenbuild 2010, a showcase for the latest innovations in green building.

Powell acknowledged he wasn’t an obvious choice.

“All of you should be saying to yourself,” Powell said in opening,  ”‘Excuse me, isn’t this guy an infantry officer, the former Secretary of State? What does he know about green building?’”

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.

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.”

More dead birds in the oil sands

The Shell Muskeg River Mine demonstration tailings pond in northern, Alberta in seen in this undated handout photo. Shell Canada announced a new commercial size oil sands tailings project for the Canadian oil sands industry at their headquarters in Calgary today. REUTERS/Handout

What a week for Syncrude.

Just three days after the oil sands producer was fined $2.9 million for the deaths of 1,600 waterbirds in 2008, more ducks landed in one of their toxic waste ponds and had to be euthanized.

Could the timing be worse?

During a freezing rain storm on Monday, hundreds of ducks landed on a toxic tailings pond owned by the company in the oil sands of northern Alberta, Canada, putting the birds in contact with tar-like bitumen floating on the surface.

“I cannot express how disappointed and frustrated I am that this incident occurred,” Alberta Environment Minister Rob Renner said of the latest bird deaths in a statement.

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.