26 October 2010

China green suppliers, improving fuel efficiency, food and biofuels, Yemeni water crisis and other sustainability news

Top Stories

"New U.S. Standards Take Aim at Truck Emissions and Fuel Economy"reliability high.
The U.S. EPA has announced the first national emissions and fuel economy standards for trucks, buses and similar heavy vehicles. The new standards will apply to vehicles made in 2014. "tractor-trailers would be required to achieve a 20 percent reduction in fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions by 2018." EPA Administrator Jackson "said that lower fuel costs for truckers would more than cover the costs of the technology used to meet the new standards and would create jobs in truck manufacturing and related industries." From The New York Times. The EPA announcement is here.

"New Report: Chinese Companies are Improving Environmental Standards Through Supply Chains"reliability high.
"Chinese suppliers can improve their business performance by adopting high environmental standards, according to a new working paper by the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs (IPE). The paper, 'Greening Supply Chains in China,' highlights the experiences of five companies in China that have worked to improve their environmental performance." See WRI site. Access report here. [Case studies illustrate how sustainability improvements benefit Chinese companies.]

Companies, Industries, Markets and Supply Chains

"San Francisco's green taxi fleet and how it got there"reliability medium.
How the city and the taxi industry agreed on regulations that have resulted in half the taxi fleet being hybrid or natural gas vehicles, significantly reducing fuel consumption by the fleet. From Autoblog Green.

"70 mpg, without a Hybrid"reliability high.
The Mazda Demio (Mazda 2) to be introduced in Japan next year will get 70.5 miles per gallon, or 30 kilometers per liter, using the Japanese method of estimating fuel economy. The U.S. method will give a much lower estimate. The 30% improvement in fuel efficiency is achieved through "a more efficient engine and transmission, and a lighter body and suspension." More about the engine technology. "Michael Omotoso, manager of the power train forecasting group at J.D. Power and Associates, estimates that the new car could be rated between 50 and 60 mpg in the U.S." See Technology Review. [Internal combustion engine is not dead yet.]

"Petrobras signs $1.2 bln ethanol deal with Tereos"reliability high.
Brazilian oil major Petrobras will buy up to 2.2 billion liters of cane-based ethanol from French-owned Tereos over four years for 2.1 billion-real ($1.23 billion). More about consolidation in the Brazilian ethanol industry. From Reuters.

"Germany to raise bioethanol blending in gasoline"reliability high.
Germany is expected to approve an increase in the level of ethanol that can be blended in gasoline from 5% to 10% from next January. The change is expected to benefit grain and sugar farmers by creating additional demand for their crops. Reuters story.

"Global food crisis forecast as prices reach record highs"reliability high.
The Guardian reports "Rising food prices and shortages could cause instability in many countries as the cost of staple foods and vegetables reached their highest levels in two years, with scientists predicting further widespread droughts and floods." Food commodity price volatility and nervousness, weather events, withdrawal of agricultural land for industrial uses including biofuels are seen as causes. Stocks remain adequate, but food price inflation is pronounced in some regions. "Mounting anger has greeted food price inflation of 21% in Egypt in the last year, along with 17% rises in India and similar amounts in many other countries. Prices in the UK have risen 22% in three years." Speculation by investors is also blamed. See The Guardian. Related story on "Six casualties of the world food crisis", also from The Guardian, rounds up reports on food shortages and inflation, including cabbage in Korea, garlic in China, tomatoes in Israel, maize in the U.S., sugar in Pakistan and bread in Russia.

"New Report: Access to Land and the Right to Food"reliability high.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food has issued a report which says "up to 30 million hectares of farmland is lost annually due to environmental degradation, conversion to industrial use or urbanization. A trend exacerbated by the expansion of agrofuels and the speculation on farmland." See Rapporteur site. PDF of report here. ["The competition among various uses of farmland has recently been increased by policies favouring the switch to biofuels in transport, which leads to competing resource claims on the part of local resource users, Governments and incoming agrofuel producers, creating the risk that poorer groups will lose access to the land on which they depend." Do crop-derived biofuels offer benefits commensurate with their high social costs?]

Government and Regulation

"South Africa unveils plans for 'world's biggest' solar power plant"reliability high.
South Africa will announce plans to build a 5 GW solar project which would cost up to 200bn rand (£18.42bn) and would be equivalent to one-tenth of the nation's current power generation capacity. The plan calls for using "a mix of the latest solar technologies." See The Guardian. [Northern Cape Province, with its Kalahari Desert climate and Orange River for cooling, could be one of the world's best solar sites.]

The Future of Water

"In Yemen, Water Grows Scarcer"reliability medium.
John Rudolf posts that "Increasingly sharp water shortages could cost Yemen 750,000 jobs and slash incomes by as much as 25 percent over the next decade, warns a new report on Yemen," prepared by McKinsey and Company for the Yemeni government. The capital Sana depends on groundwater, which is being rapidly depleted and could run out by 2025. More on water troubles in Yemen. From The New York Times Green blog. [This isn't about global warming or climate change, but about too many people trying to mine limited groundwater resources. If you think Yemen is unstable now, wait until they don't have enough water to grow khat. Growing populations and profligate water use in arid regions could bring major social disruption over coming decades. We needed a green revolution fifty years ago, and got one because of decades of investment in crop science. Now we need a blue revolution.]