InsideClimateNews.org — It has been more than a month now, and Amber Bartlett has had enough of hotels and apartments and trailer homes. Of crowded rooms whose thin walls amplify the bickering of her four children. Of piles of toys and clothes overflowing from drawers and suitcases. Of not knowing, day to day, where her life is headed.
She wants to be back in her five-bedroom, three-bathroom home at16 Starlite Road North in Mayflower, Ark.Read more »
Just how great are today’s great investors? We might not know, not yet, because they’ve become great in a great time for investing.
Pimco co-founder Bill Gross recently published a reflective essay on the role of decades-long economic trends in the success of super-investors. In his career, he wrote, he might not have seen enough true variability to know if the epoch made him or if he made the epoch.Read more »
InsideClimateNews.org -- For the first time in human history, concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are expected to pass 400 parts per million across much of the Northern Hemisphere in May, according to scientists who study data from the Mauna Loa Observatory, the world's longest-running CO2 monitoring station.
While crossing the 400 ppm mark isn't a "tipping point" that signals climate catastrophe, scientists told InsideClimate News, it is an important symbolic milestone that underscores government inaction on global warming.
Bloomberg BNA -- Almost all of the top 500 publicly traded U.S. companies annually disclose information on their sustainability performance, but very few combine sustainability and financial performance data, according to a report released April 29 by the Investor Responsibility Research Center Institute (IRRCI) and the Sustainable Investments Institute (SI2).
All but one of the Standard & Poor's 500 companies made at least one sustainability-related disclosure in 2012, according to Integrated Financial and Sustainability Reporting in the United States.
Vaclav Smil has a lot to say and is never shy about saying it. He’s written more than 30 books about energy, ecology, food and agriculture, China, the U.S. and more. He's in the process of publishing three more within 12 months: Harvesting the Biosphere (MIT Press; December 2012), Should We Eat Meat? (Wiley; June) and Made in the USA: The Rise and Retreat of American Manufacturing (MIT Press; October).
He fielded this Dumb Question by phone from the University of Manitoba, where he’s Distinguished Professor Emeritus in the Department of Environment and Geography.Read more »
InsideClimateNews.org -- A State Department official confirmed that for the first time the department will make public all the public comments received on its draft environmental impact statement for the Keystone XL pipeline.
In an email to InsideClimate News, the official, who requested anonymity, said the comments would be posted on Regulations.gov.
"Although the volume of comments will be extraordinarily high, the posting will maximize transparency," the official said. "We are working on the technical details and exact timing of posting the comments."
Last month, Imani J. Esparza of the Office of Policy and Public Outreach in the State Department's bureau of oceans, environment and science told InsideClimate News that only a summary of the public comments would be included in the final version environmental impact statement.
To see the comments themselves, a request under the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, would be required, a process that can take so long that the Keystone debate could be over before the documents are made available.
But the State Department has changed its mind, and is adopting the common federal practice of making electronic dockets about proposed federal regulations available for inspection on Regulations.gov. Comments on the State Department's draft documents such as earlier environmental impact statements on Keystone have not previously been published there.
The FOIA that InsideClimate News filed for access to these documents is no longer necessary. If this case sets a precedent, it may never be necessary again for the public to gain routine and timely access to its own comments on environmental impact statements on international pipeline projects, a key tool of the National Environmental Protection Act.
"This shows that the State Department is capable of posting public comments," said Sofia Plagakis, the environmental right-to-know policy analyst at the Center for Effective Government. "So there would be no excuse not to do so in the future, but it may depend on continued pubic pressure."
Access to the full docket will allow the public to see detailed comments by project proponents who want to influence the final version of the environmental statement—such as TransCanada, which is building the pipeline, and the government of Alberta, which has been lobbying hard for approval. Both of them have filed comments, according to spokespeople, but neither has agreed so far to release copies of their comments, which InsideClimate News has requested several times. Major environmental groups that oppose the pipeline have released their own comments when requested.
Related:Read more »
Every time an iPhone is charged or an episode of "Mad Men" plays on a television, puffs of vaporized carbon join the atmosphere, products of power-plant combustion. And every year the world demands more. That era may be nearing an end, as the world approaches “peak fossil fuels,” a phrased used by Bloomberg New Energy Finance founder Michael Liebreich at the group’s annual conference.
The concept of “peak oil” -- that world oil production will plateau and decline -- was popularized by a Shell Oil geologist named M. King Hubbert, who predicted in 1956 that U.S. oil production would max out in the early 1970s and gradually decline. Globally, the peak oil hypothesis has been consistently undermined by new extraction techniques: deep-water drilling, tar-sands extraction and most recently the fracking boom. The world now has enough of these fuels to last hundreds of years.Read more »
Doug Young is betting $1.8 million that he can make money from the waste produced by his 1,800-dairy-cow farm near Union Springs, New York.
That’s the price tag for a “digester,” which converts cattle waste into fertilizer, enables the sale of carbon credits and yields energy he can sell back to the grid. Those products should bring in about $800,000 in annual profit opportunities through new revenue streams. The fertilizer alone will cut costs growing the more than 3,000 acres of corn, alfalfa and wheat he uses to feed his herd, the 56-year-old farmer said in an interview.Read more »
InsideClimateNews.org -- Advocates and opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline are due to file detailed comments on its environmental impacts on Monday, after the State Department refused to extend the comment period, which environmental groups had complained was too short.
As many as a million members of the public are expected to meet the comment deadline, which by happenstance fell on Earth Day, April 22. Comments are also expected from industry, labor and environmental groups on both sides of the debate over the proposed pipeline, which would carry oil from Canada’s tar sands region to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast.
The government of Alberta, the American Petroleum Institute, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club and other groups said they will release copies of their comments soon. But it is not clear when the State Department will make all the written comments public, as required under the National Environmental Protection Act.
The commenters are all seeking to influence the draft supplemental environmental impact statement, or SEIS, that the State Department released in March, which appeared to open the door to a decision later this year to grant the pipeline a permit. Once the final SEIS is issued, the State Department must begin a separate deliberation to determine if the project is in the national interest—a question that goes beyond environmental considerations.
Environmental groups have complained they didn't have enough time to critique the environmental assessment, which ran to thousands of pages. They said they weren't given access to some of the underlying studies used for the project.
But on Friday, Assistant Secretary of State Kerri-Ann Jones turned down their request for an extended comment period. She said the public will have more time to comment on the project during the national interest discussion.
The draft impact statement, prepared by contractors with close ties to the industry, asserted that the project's approval wouldn't significantly affect worldwide greenhouse gas emissions or global climate change. It argued that even if the Keystone is never built Alberta's tar sands will continue to be exploited and the high-carbon fuels produced there will follow some other route to world markets—either by alternative pipelines to the Atlantic or Pacific, or by costlier rail routes.
Opponents of the pipeline have argued that the impact statement's market analysis was flawed, that it understated the importance of greenhouse gas emissions from producing and burning tar sands oil, and that serious issues of pipeline safety remain—a point that was reinforced after a pipeline spill in Arkansas in late March.
Proponents have argued that the impact statement settled all the major questions that remain and that the project should move ahead swiftly. Alberta has defended its environmental record and said it plans to tighten up on emissions. And the industry has focused on the economic and employment benefits that it said would ensue.
There is a clamor of voices demanding the rebooting of capitalism, from academics (such as Michael Porter) and politicians (like Al Gore) to investors (such as CalPERS) and Occupy's street activists.
The common thread is that today's model of capitalism overemphasizes short-term financial data and neglects information that gets at the true sources of sustainable value creation — things like innovation, brand equity, customer loyalty, and key stakeholder relationships. Corporate reporting today emphasizes compliance, boilerplate and legalese. As a result, we have a massive glut of filings, press releases, analyst reports and articles focused on financial data. The system has lost sight of the point of reporting: to give companies access to financial capital by communicating their value to investors.
The consequence of the systemic failure of this lopsided model is that companies focus on short-term financial performance — because that is what they believe investors are interested in — to the detriment of long-term value creation. Investors, meanwhile, compensate for the lack of knowledge about issues central to longer term value by pricing in a risk premium. This can result in market valuations that do not reflect the fundamental performance or prospects of the business, leading to a misallocation of capital and reduced visibility for investors, reinforcing short-term decision-making. And it is business that pays the price through more expensive capital, while furthering a flawed model of capitalism.
Fortunately, there is a better way to communicate about the sources of value creation: integrated reporting. Such reporting integrates material information about a firm's financial performance with information on sustainability performance and intangibles such as intellectual and human capital.