22 October 2010

Rare earths dustup, changing the Arctic, sustainability jobs up, PCs on 24/7, Bjørn's saga and more green business news

Top Stories

"Germany to Raise Alarm Over China Rare Earths Restrictions at G-20"reliability high.
The German government is concerned about China's dominance of the supply of some rare earth minerals and plans to raise the issue at the G20 summit. "German companies say they are being pressed by Chinese officials to increase their investments in China if they want to be assured of access to rare earth minerals and two other obscure elements, tungsten and antimony. ... Three industry officials told The New York Times this week that China, which has been blocking all shipments of crucial minerals to Japan for the past month, has now quietly halted some shipments of those materials to the United States and Europe." More on mineral supply and trade issues. See The New York Times. [Just as rare earth minerals are becoming increasingly important to many high-tech industries, customers are realizing that they are highly dependent on China for supplies. Expect extraction to increase at other sources. Higher prices will help drive diversification of supplies. For a while China may be able to use rare earths and other raw materials sort of the way Saudi Arabia used oil in 1973.]

"Lake Mead sinks to a new historic low"reliability high.
Lake Mead, the reservoir behind Hoover Dam, is at its lowest level since it was first filled in 1937. Drier conditions in the Colorado watershed over the past decade, and increasing water demand, have brought the lake close to the level where withdrawals for some farmers would start to be restricted. From the Arizona Republic. [NOAA expects the Southwest to be warmer and drier than normal through February 2011 due to La Niña conditions. Those same conditions will produce wind in the Pacific Northwest, boosting wind energy output.]

Companies, Industries, Markets and Supply Chains

"Data shows growth in demand for global green expertise"reliability high.
Another report on sustainability employment trends. "The latest careers and salary benchmark report produced by Environment Analyst and international recruitment specialist Allen & York concludes that sustainability skills are currently in strong demand in Latin America and the Asia Pacific region – and this is reflected in rising salary trends in these areas. ... In contrast to the UK and elsewhere in Europe - where sustainability/environmental teams are more likely to be contracting than growing in the wake of recession - the general trend globally is for an increase in the number of sustainability staff. ... The average salary for a global sustainability professional, according to the online survey, is €51,200 (US$65,400)". More highlights of report. See Environmental Analyst. Summary of report here (registration required).

"$1B Market for Wind Energy Storage By 2015"reliability high.
NanoMarkets has published a new report estimating that the market for energy storage for wind power will hit $1.1 billion by 2015, one-third of which will be in China. It says the key technologies that will benefit include lead-carbon, sodium-sulfur and flow battery systems, pumped hydro, and compressed air storage. "The utility-scale energy storage market as a whole is expected to reach $35.3 billion by 2020, according to a separate analysis." From Sustainable Business.com.

"The New Silicon Valley: Why Entrepreneurs Are Flocking to Energy"reliability medium.
Seth Kisch posts about the seismic shift in Silicon Valley toward clean energy startups and investments. He interviewed Jigar Shah, founder of SunEdison, who says, "I think the energy business is the largest wealth creation sector on the planet. If you are an entrepreneur and you are smart, this is where you should be. ... there is more money chasing renewable energy than there are projects." He sees a big gap still in financial products. Other predictions. See CleanTechies blog.

"PC Power Management Tools Reduce Energy Use by 45%"reliability high.
A study shows that "more than 100 million corporate and government PCs are left 'powered on' 94 percent of the time", and that "a centralized PC power management solution reduced PC energy consumption by 45 percent." The study used software agents running on 11,000 PCs to monitor their activity. The research was done by Verdiem, a maker of PC power management software. Desktop PCs were found to be on more than 93% of the time overnight and on weekends. Even laptops were on half the time overnight and on weekends. The study calculates savings from automated, centralized power management for large organizations. See Environmental Leader. PDF of the report here.

"Walmart and General Mills Bullish on Sustainable Palm Oil"reliability medium.
Mindy S. Lubber posts about recent Wal-Mart and General Mills commitments to sustainably produced palm oil. Palm oil is widely used in foods, health & beauty aids and other consumer products. "Companies that ignore supply chain risks such as deforestation put their company's reputation and profits at risk, and investors are starting to notice," she writes. More on palm oil supply chains and issues. From GreenBiz blog.

Science and Economics

"Return to previous Arctic conditions is unlikely"reliability high.
An "Arctic Report Card: Update for 2010" from the U.S. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration says "the Arctic is continuing to move into a new and different climate state." The report summarizes changes in several areas, including loss of sea ice, which could be bringing colder weather to southern locations, and more rapid ice loss from Greenland than in previous decades. Changes in the Arctic are affecting Northern Hemisphere weather. See NOAA site.

And . . .

"Cool It--Movie Review"reliability medium.
Review of new documentary about controversial "Danish political scientist Bjørn Lomborg and his views on how the world should, and should not, address climate change. ... For a mere $250 billion a year, he calculates, we could deal with climate change, and eliminate disease and poverty too." He says our current strategies for addressing climate change, which he agrees is a big problem, are "broken" and won't work. From Doc's Green Blog.