09 July 2010

Governments struggle to get it right, GSA wants greener suppliers, and more green news

Top Stories

Green vendors to get contracting preference.reliability high.
"Government contractors would have to track their greenhouse-gas emissions or risk losing out on new contracts, under a plan released last week by the General Services Administration. The requirement, which few companies are currently able to meet, could take effect in fiscal 2011 or 2012. ... One possible action Obama suggested was requiring contractors to report their emissions and plans to reduce them. GSA's report says that goal is not feasible, at least in the short term. It recommends, instead, that federal contracting officers ask companies about their abilities to measure greenhouse-gas emissions. Their answers would be one factor in contract awards." See item in Federal Times. [Not a requirement yet, but a factor. The government is even a bigger buyer than Wal-Mart.]

Sainsbury's to plant two million trees.reliability high.
As part of a broad initiative that includes stricter sourcing of wood, paper and palm oil and reduction of packaging material use, Sainsbury's will "plant new trees so the supermarket is 'doing its bit' to increase forest cover." Story at edie.net, and another at BusinessGreen. [Generally tree-planting schemes are greenwash, and the item mentions working with the discredited Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, but still this may be a step in the right direction.]

Companies, Industries, Markets and Supply Chains

Green software standard paves way for ubiquitous carbon footprints.reliability high.
"The Business & Application Software Developers' Association (BASDA) will next week launch a data exchange standard, dubbed Green-XML, that should make it easier for developers to integrate data on carbon emissions and water use into business software applications. BASDA's existing eBis XML standard provides developers with a standardised method for handling and transferring data between different online purchasing and invoicing systems, and the new standard will apply the same model to increasingly popular environmental metrics." See BusinessGreen story.

Michelin TV ad banned for making misleading eco claim.reliability high.
"A million pound TV ad for tyre maker Michelin has been banned for making misleading environmental claims. 15 viewers challenged whether the claim "can help to save up to 80 litres of fuel" was misleading, because the ad did not specify what period of time the claim related to. Michelin Tyres told the ASA its ad had been accepted for broadcast by advisers Clearcast, who said their motoring consultant had confirmed the claim was over the life of the tyre (45,000 kilometres)." The ad can't be shown again in the UK. From Click Green. Similar story about a Porche ad ruled misleading. [Companies struggle to find something green to say about their products, however obscure, but risk censure if they aren't clear about how little that green feature is.]

A City’s Motto: I [heart] Tap Water.reliability medium.
"New York City is so proud of its tap water that the Bloomberg administration has come up with a product line to trumpet its quality and promote it as an affordable and sustainable alternative to bottled water. ... 'The message of the department is not to drink bottled water because it takes energy to produce plastic bottles and the bottles end up as litter.'" More about promotional merchandise. From New York Times Green blog.

Government and Regulation

Fuel ethanol production threatens food security.reliability medium.
"Food supply concerns triggered by the lingering drought and floods that swept China this year have left the country in what appears to be a dilemma about developing clean energy produced with food and ensuring the country's food security. ... From 2004 to 2006, the price of corn was greatly influenced by the massive production of fuel ethanol, which drove many farmers of other crops to plant corn. The State Council, China's cabinet, put a stop to fuel ethanol projects that were under construction in 2007. But the subsidy was not ceased, and some fuel ethanol projects that should have been canceled emerged again." See China Daily. [This was to have been a pilot program, but obviously the incentives were on the generous side. China will have to rein it in. It would make more sense to import ethanol from Brazil if they need it.]

Italy set to phase in solar incentive cuts.reliability high.
"industry sources told news agency Reuters that they expected feed-in tariffs to be reduced by up to 30 per cent next year. ... However, subsidies will be extended to emerging concentrated PV technologies that were not previously eligible for incentives." More details. See BusinessGreen. [Germany, Italy and Spain had hot solar panel markets based on generous and unsustainable feed-in tariffs and other subsidies. They have been puzzled how to slow this gravy train without throwing their (subsidy-dependent) solar industries into turmoil.]

Raising the Bar on Biomass.reliability medium.
Massachusetts moves to tighten carbon accounting for biomass energy: "In a letter released Wednesday, Ian A. Bowles, the state’s secretary for energy and environmental affairs, instructed the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources to draft new regulations that would raise the bar for biomass projects angling to qualify for credits, including a requirement that they provide 'significant near-term greenhouse gas dividends.'" From New York Times Green blog. [This would allow projects that capture waste wood, but disadvantage projects based on harvesting from renewable plantations where the CO2 release by wood burned today won't be balanced by CO2 captured by plant growth until years or decades later. Many wood-to-energy projects offer to turn forests into CO2 today with more-or-less vague assurances that future forest growth will soak up a similar amount of CO2 someday. But in the meantime there is a big GHG bubble. Of course burning coal creates the bubble without even the hope of neutralizing it later.]