13 August 2010

Many firms not going green, capturing coal carbon, dubious carbon credits and other sustainable business news

Top Stories

Analysis: India plant's carbon status denial upsets investors.reliability high.
"A U.N. carbon credit scheme's rejection of a huge Indian coal power plant deprives the project of revenue running into hundreds of millions of euros and rings alarm bells for investors developing similar plants. ... In India's western state of Gujarat, Tata Power has completed more than half of its $4.2-billion 4,000-MW plant that will use more efficient supercritical boiler technology to cut carbon emissions and reduce coal consumption. ... Tata had been hoping to earn carbon credits under a U.N. scheme that rewards investments in cleaner energy. But late in July, the panel for the U.N.'s Clean Development Mechanism rejected Tata's application, saying it had not shown CDM revenues were critical to the project's return on equity. ... The step could be a blow for other developers looking to capitalize on India's massive infrastructure gap, such as Reliance, CLP Power India, Indiabulls Power and GMR Energy." More on reaction of backers of such projects. See Reuters article. [The decision centers on the concept of "additionality". Would the plant have been built anyway in the absence of the potential carbon credits? If so there is no "additional" reduction due to the carbon credit transaction, and the credits are not valid. Apparently the panel decided that the more-efficient technology paid for itself and would have been used even in the absence of the issuance of credits.]

Calif. Project Spurs Debate Over a 'Decarbonized' Energy System.reliability high.
In-depth look at a project in California that might allow it to burn coal with less CO2 emissions than today's natural gas power plants by using carbon capture and storage. The project has a market for the CO2 for enhanced oil recovery at a nearby Occidental Petroleum field, the gasification technology is well proven, and coal companies are eager for a continuing market for their product. See New York Times from ClimateWire. See related item below. [Worth reading to see how all the stakeholders seem to be coming together around the project. Most of the financing will come from BP and Rio Tinto. The scheme may be viable in California because of premium prices that can be allowed for electricity from "low carbon" sources (though a buyer for the power hasn't been locked in yet). And California has a policy to decarbonize its energy system. Carbon capture and storage is still an unproven technology, and one might raise doubts about "sequestering" CO2 in an oil field perforated by thousands of holes.]

Companies, Industries, Markets and Supply Chains

P&G to use Braskem's bioplastic.reliability medium.
"P&G said today that it will use sugarcane-based high-density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic made by Braskem into some of its packaging on its Pantene Pro-V, Covergirl and Max Factor brands. Pilot products will be rolled out globally over the next two years with first commercial products expected on the shelf in 2011." From ICIS Green Chemicals.

Think Globally, Compromise Locally.reliability medium.
"there has been a string of successful compromises between environmentalists and industry in the last two weeks. The most notable were in Utah, California and Ohio. One dealt with natural gas drilling. Another, described by my colleague Erik Eckholm in Thursday’s paper, involved livestock and poultry farms that confine animals in tiny spaces. And as my colleague Todd Woody reported this week, a solution was reached on distribution of inadequate water supplies in California’s agricultural heartland. ... the developments in Ohio, California’s Central Valley and Utah show that formerly hostile industries are coming to terms with the wider acceptance of the environmentalist ethos. Keith Stimpert, a senior vice president of the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, could have been speaking for more than his own industry when he told Mr. Eckholm, 'We all know change is coming.'" More details on these cases. See New York Times green blog.

Executives, Consumers Doubt Most Companies Really Going Green.reliability high.
"Fortune 1000 executives and the general public believe just a fraction of businesses are embracing green practices, a new survey found. Only 29 percent of Fortune 1000 executives and 16 percent of consumers feel a majority of companies are committed to adopting more environmentally friendly business practices, products or services, according to the 2010 Gibbs & Soell Sense & Sustainability Study. In comparison, 54 percent of executives believe only some are walking the green walk, in addition to 48 percent of consumers participating in the survey." See Greener World Media. PDF of press release here. ["While more than two-thirds of executives (69%) indicated their companies have people responsible for sustainability or 'going green' initiatives, most have merely added responsibilities for green efforts to the primary duties of a team of individuals (35%), or a C-suite or another senior level position (15%). Only about one in 10 say they have a C-suite or other senior level title/position dedicated solely to sustainability (12%), while 31% noted there is no one at their organization who is primarily or partially responsible for green initiatives." A lot of companies have some catching up to do.]

And from a similar survey in UK: Short-term profits put corporate sustainability commitments at risk.reliability high.
"Sustainability is at risk of dropping off the corporate agenda post-recession with business ditching it in favour of strategies to generate short-term profits and enhance their balance sheet, according to a new report released by O2 today. With spending still under pressure, Harnessing Change: Preparing for Business in the Next Decade, reveals that the downturn has left British boardrooms deeply divided on the issue. Nearly half (46%) of business and public sector leaders plan to prioritise sustainability over the next two years, but more than a third (36%) admits they will turn away from it.  1 in 3 argues that they don't have the expertise to quantify and justify its benefits resulting in it failing to fly in boardrooms." More highlights of results. From O2 site.

Government and Regulation

France launches €1.35bn renewable energy package.reliability high.
"The French government has this week launched a major renewable energy investment programme, promising to provide €1.35bn (£1.1bn) of financial support to the sector over the next four years. The new programme ... will provide €450m in subsidies and a further €900m in low-interest loans to cutting-edge technology projects." See BusinessGreen.

Obama panel urges U.S. backing for clean coal.reliability high.
"A task force established by President Obama called Thursday for a strong government role to promote clean coal, potentially accepting liability over carbon-storage sites for thousands of years to come. ... The task force, which included 14 federal agencies and departments as well as stakeholders, called for government financial and technical support to meet Obama's goal of creating up to 10 CCS demonstration projects by 2016. ... Along with the high costs of CCS projects, the report said a potential hang-up was how to ensure liability for storage areas -- geological formations where carbon can be kept for hundreds or even thousands of years." At Grist from AFP.

Science and Economics

World 2009 CO2 emissions off 1.3 percent: institute.reliability high.
"Global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in 2009 fell 1.3 percent to 31.3 billion tonnes in the first year-on-year decline in this decade, German renewable energy institute IWR said on Friday. The Muenster-based institute, which advises German ministries, cited the global economic crisis and rising investments in renewable energies for the fall in emissions. ... Global CO2 emissions are still 37 percent above those in 1990, the basis year for the Kyoto Climate Protocol." See Reuters. More at IWR site (in German).