The Grid: Energy, Resources, Environment, Sustainability | Bloomberg

More Companies Assign Dollar Value To Natural Resources

Bloomberg BNA — Companies are starting to consider the value of natural resources in making business decisions, a practice that will become increasingly important as those resources become further constrained, corporate representatives say.

The practice, called natural capital accounting, is a way for companies to accurately assess and manage risk, maintain their social license to operate, manage or lower operating costs, and secure a competitive advantage, the representatives say.

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A Fossil Fuel Saves Lives, Money and CO2 in Darfur

Women Cooking in Darfur, Sudan

Fossil fuels typically don’t leap to mind as carbon-cutting alternative energy sources. Yet in Sudan's North Darfur region, liquefied petroleum gas, or LPG, is helping reduce carbon emissions, plus saving lives and money.

A project started in 2007 by Practical Action, a British non-governmental group, and Carbon Clear, a company that sells emission offsets, aims to halve household emissions generated by wood- or charcoal-fired stoves. Changing to a lower-emitting fuel may also reduce the number of deaths due to smoke inhalation, which the World Health Organization estimates at 2 million people annually.

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Higher Insurance for Riskier Living

It's not every day you meet Republicans (or really, anyone) who advocate for a U.S. carbon tax. Then again, not everyone is a determined advocate of so-called Pigovian taxes, the phrase economists use for levies on activities we probably shouldn’t be doing anyway.

For the Pigovian-inclined, a tax on carbon pollution is much more attractive as policy than a tax on things we want more of — like payroll earnings or corporate income. A carbon tax would be "revenue neutral" if the new government income was used to eliminate taxes elsewhere, as opposed to adding the income to the general treasury or using it to fund clean-energy science.

Read more » — A key piece of data related to the biggest tar sands oil spill in U.S. history has disappeared from the Environmental Protection Agency's website, adding to confusion about the size of the spill and possibly reducing the fine that the company responsible for the accident would be required to pay.

The July 2010 accident on an Enbridge Inc. pipeline dumped thousands of barrels of Canadian dilbit into the Kalamazoo River and surrounding wetlands. But almost three years and two federal investigations later, one of the most important questions about the spill remains unanswered: Exactly how much oil spilled from the pipeline?

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Arkansas Oil Spill Drives Families From New Homes

Arkansas Oil Spill Shatters American Dream of Displaced Families — 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.

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Top Investors Will Feel Heat of New Epoch

Global Annual Mean Surface Air Temperature Change

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.

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The Keeling Curve -- 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.

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Few Public Companies Integrate Financial, Sustainability Data

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.

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Meat for All

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.

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State Department Will Make Keystone Public Comments Public -- 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

"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 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.


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About The Grid

Nations and companies face rising competition for strategic resources — energy, food, water, materials — and the technologies that make best use of them. That's sustainability. It's about the 21st-century race for wealth, health and long-term security, across the global grid.

Analyses or commentary in this blog are the views of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Bloomberg News.

Eric Roston, Editor

Tom Randall, Deputy Editor

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