31 August 2010

Coal loses lenders, tar sands pollute (surprise), small businesses save money and other green news

Top Stories

Lenders Back Off of Environmental Risks.reliability high.
"After years of legal entanglements arising from environmental messes and increased scrutiny of banks that finance the dirtiest industries, several large commercial lenders are taking a stand on industry practices that they regard as risky to their reputations and bottom lines. In the most recent example, the banking giant Wells Fargo noted last month what it called 'considerable attention and controversy' surrounding mountaintop removal mining, and said that its involvement with companies engaged in it was 'limited and declining.' " Article gives other examples. Miners and others deny any impact. " 'While some banks no longer provide financing for companies conducting surface mining, there are many who will,' Mr. Hendriksen [of Massey Energy] said. 'We have and will continue to replace their services with alternate bank providers with little difficulty.' " From The New York Times. [Is this about risk management on the part of banks, or are they concerned about dirt by association?]

U.S. to propose labeling greenhouse gases from cars.reliability high.
"The labeling proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation would allow consumers to compare cars in terms of emissions blamed for warming the planet and to see how far they could drive on new technologies and traditional gasoline engines. ... The labels would include comparisons across all types of vehicles including electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid cars. The EPA and the DOT will propose two label designs for comment." See Reuters article.

Companies, Industries, Markets and Supply Chains

Biofuel demand driving Africa 'land grab' : report .reliability high.
"Biofuel demand is driving a new "land grab" in Africa, with at least 5 million hectares (19,300 sq miles) acquired by foreign firms to grow crops in 11 countries, a study by an environmental group said on Monday. The contracts by European and Asian companies for land to grow sugar cane, jatropha and palm oil to be turned into fuel will involve clearing forests and vegetation, taking land that could be used for food and creating conflicts with local communities, Friends of the Earth said in the study. ... 'The competition for land and the competition for staple food crops such as cassava and sweet sorghum for agrofuels is likely to push up food and land prices,' the study said." Story at Reuters. PDF of the study here. [Unintended consequences of European policies stimulating demand for biofuels.]

Hot Water, Lights and AC as a Service.reliability high.
"You really don’t need to own your light bulbs. You don’t even need to lease them. You just need the light that emanates from them. That is the premise underlying a new crop of startups such as Skyline Innovations and Metrus Energy that hope to transform energy efficiency and building management through creative financing, service contracts and software." See Greentech Media.

Review Finds Flaws in U.N. Climate Panel Structure.reliability high.
"The review committee’s major recommendation is that ... the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change should become a more professional organization, paying salaries to its top management. ... The committee noted that some climate panel leaders had been criticized for public statements perceived as advocating specific policies. 'Straying into advocacy can only hurt I.P.C.C.’s credibility,' the report said." From The New York Times. PDF of report here.

Small Businesses Add Solar to Save Money.reliability high.
"Small businesses across the nation are installing solar power systems as a way to offset higher electricity costs and make a little profit on excess energy produced. As an example, L. Liberato Steel Fabricating in Pennsylvania has installed a 602-panel, 141-kilowatt rooftop solar photovoltaic system that will help the steel fabricator cut its electric bills and generate excess electricity for an additional profit, reports The Mercury Business." Other examples. See Environmental Leader.

Government and Regulation

Judge quashes Cuccinelli subpoena of U-Va. records.reliability medium.
"An Albemarle County Circuit Court judge has set aside  a subpoena issued by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to the University of Virginia seeking documents related to the work of climate scientist and former university professor Michael Mann. Judge Paul M. Peatross Jr. ruled that Cuccinelli can investigate whether fraud has occurred in university grants, as the attorney general had contended, but ruled that Cuccinelli's subpoena failed to state a 'reason to believe' that Mann had committed fraud." See Washington Post blog. [Cuccinelli asserted that because of alleged doubts about climate change, Mann might have committed fraud by taking state money to study it. The AG wanted email records from U. Virginia. The judge said he would need a better basis for his fraud theory. Cuccinelli may try again. It's a little scary when the Attorney General can go after a scientist and an institution if he doesn't like the results they are getting.]

Science and Economics

New Study Links Toxic Pollutants to Canadian Oil Sands Mining.reliability high.
"a new study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences is backing the position of the Native Canadians. Led by several University of Alberta researchers, the study found that unusual levels of lead, mercury, zinc, cadmium and other toxic pollutants were found near oil sands mining sites or downstream from them. The levels exceeded federal and provincial government guidelines." See New York Times Green blog. Abstract and access here. [Previous article on polycyclic aromatic compounds from the mines here. "These results indicate that major changes are needed to the way that environmental impacts of oil sands development are monitored and managed."]