22 July 2010

Unintended consequences, lighting retrofits, water shortages and other green business news

Top Stories

For Oysters, a 'Remedy' Turned Catastrophe.reliability medium.
"In late April, just days into what has turned out to be the largest oil spill in American history, Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, with the support of local parish officials, ordered  the opening of giant valves on the Mississippi River, releasing torrents of freshwater that they hoped would push oil back out to sea. ... Now, some oyster fishermen along the coast are reporting mortality rates as high as 80 percent along thousands of acres of oyster beds. In Barataria Bay, one of Louisiana’s most productive oyster fisheries, some beds are 60 percent dead, largely because of the freshwater influx, The Wall Street Journal quoted Louisiana’s top state oyster biologist as saying." See The New York Times Green blog. [Here's the kicker: will the State of Louisiana be able to get BP to pay for the lost income of oyster farmers over the next five years caused by its own perhaps well-intentioned but clumsy mitigation efforts? "In statements to The A.P. and The Journal, Garrett Graves, chairman of Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, and a lead official in the state’s oil spill response, indicated that BP would be held responsible for the damage to the oyster beds caused by the freshwater releases." The underlying lessons: The environment is complicated. Nothing is ever as simple as it seems. Actions have unintended consequences.]

Report: More than One Out of Three U.S. Counties Face Water Shortages Due to Climate Change.reliability high.
"More than 1,100 U.S. counties -- a full one-third of all counties in the lower 48 states -- now face higher risks of water shortages by mid-century as the result of global warming, and more than 400 of these counties will be at extremely high risk for water shortages, based on estimates from a new report by Tetra Tech for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)." Highlights of report findings. From NRDC press release. Access the report here. [Current demand growth is not sustainable, given projected effects of climate change on precipitation. In scores of counties the situation is unsustainable even without climate change effects.]

Companies, Industries, Markets and Supply Chains

GM to get boost from China's fuel-efficient vehicle incentives.reliability medium.
China's confusing new subsidies for fuel-efficient cars seem to benefit foreign automakers more than Chinese ones, since the established overseas firms have better small-engine efficiency technology. "General Motors comes out on top with six models – the Buick Regal, Chevrolet Cruze, Aveo, Lova, New Sail and Spark  – that qualify for the newly-introduced incentive." From Autoblog Green. [We hear a lot about China's push to lead the world in clean technology. It is worth remembering that established automakers elsewhere still have the lead in engine design and many other areas. These imported technologies can help China reach its energy goals. Related news: "In the first half of this year, G.M.'s China sales rose 48.5 percent over the same period last year, and for the first time ever, the automaker sold more vehicles in China than in the United States." See New York Times story.]

High-Rise Building Lighting Retrofit Saves $160,000 Annually.reliability high.
The 820,000 sq. ft. "Westwood Gateway Towers in Los Angeles is saving more than $160,000 annually, or 35 percent per year, in energy costs, thanks to a retrofit of its lighting systems. ... ReGreen also helped Irvine Company qualify for rebates from the LADWP’s CLEO Program that helped subsidize more than 60 percent of the cost for upgrades." Expected payback is two years or less. From Environmental Leader. [The interesting thing about this retrofit is that it is not a leap to new lighting technology. They just replaced older fluorescent tubes using magnetic ballasts with T8 ones and solid-state ballasts. (They probably upgraded switches, sensors and lighting control, too.) (Comparison of T8 to T12.)]

IBM's Green Supply Chain.reliability medium.
"IBM is helping expand the definition of a green IT supplier by upping the demands. To get a sense of what IBM is asking of its 28,000 first tier suppliers, I spoke with Wayne Balta, IBM's VP of corporate environmental affairs and product safety. ... In short, IBM is asking for four things and telling suppliers they must: 1. Define and deploy an environmental management systems (EMS). 2. Measure existing environmental impacts and establish goals to improve performance. 3. Publicly disclose their metrics and results. 4. "Cascade" these requirements to any suppliers that are material to IBM's products." More on the initiative. See Harvard Business Review blog.

Government and Regulation

Furniture Makers Face Higher Costs to Meet Law Limiting Formaldehyde in Wood.reliability high.
"Demand for no-formaldehyde-added wood is expected to rise after President Obama signed a law this month that limits the amount of formaldehyde in wood, reports USA Today. It’s also projected to result in higher furniture and cabinet prices but will make homes greener. The new federal law is based on California's standard for limiting the formaldehyde in wood. California officials recently extended the deadline until Dec. 31, 2011, for stores to sell furniture and cabinets that surpass formaldehyde limits, according to USA Today." See Environmental Leader.