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

Welcome back to the Griddle, our top picks from the week's Bloomberg Sustainability stories. Many people associate "Clorox" with century-old brand of bleach. How times change. Clorox Co. (CLX) is now aiming for a $300 million health-care products and services business, mostly through acquisitions. The company wants to build on the success of Burt's Bees, the sustainable skin-care line that helped develop a natural products standard for its industry. Clorox is one of a growing number of companies pursuing sustainability practices both in the products it sells and by integrating its financial and sustainability reports to give investors a longer-term view of the full costs and benefits of its operations.

And now the news:

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Apple Inc.'s Plans for Maiden, North Carolina

Apple is the world's biggest company by market size, the biggest buyer of semi-conductors, the biggest maker of smartphones, and, if you include iPads, the biggest maker of personal computers.

The company is about to add a few more superlatives to the list: America's biggest producer of on-site solar and fuel-cell power.

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Water Leadership Up for Grabs as Deception Fells Gleick

Freshwater Resources

If it seems like the chattering classes are talking about carbon dioxide less than they were a couple of years ago, that's because they are. Even drivers of the public climate conversation, such as the Carbon Disclosure Project, have begun to ask if "water is the new carbon." As the group's chairman Paul Dickinson has said, "If climate is the shark, then water is the teeth."

The issue of water security on a heating planet emerged quickly after U.S. and international efforts to reel in carbon dioxide emissions fizzled in 2009. The Carbon Disclosure Project itself launched a new water program in 2010. At the same time, a water-and-energy specialist named Peter Gleick found the spotlight, having thought about the issue for more than a quarter century. He even came up with a memorable phrase, "peak water," with a definition behind it, in 2010. Water as an issue engaged many of the same experts – and much of the same rhetoric – previously claimed by carbon.

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10Q: Unilever Targets the Next Billion Consumers

Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Freezer

Clarification: Unilever says that, contrary to remarks made by its executive and reported in an earlier version of this article, the company does not have a timeline for doubling its sales.

Two billion people around the world use Unilever products every day, company officials are quick to say. They know that to increase their reach further, they'll need to satisfy a rapidly growing global middle class, without overtaxing the resources available to them.

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Zap!: 'Sustainability' Means 'Deep Strategy'

Trends in Sustainability

The first obstacle to launching a news website about sustainability is the word "sustainability." It's the embodiment of New York Times columnist Tom Friedman's observation that news stories in this arena lack appeal: "If it isn't boring, it isn't green." In fact, if you rearrange the 14 letters in "sustainability," they declare: "Banality: It is us."

There must be a better word, right? When I first met Michael Tackett, managing editor for government in Bloomberg's Washington Bureau, he asked me: "What does a sustainability editor do?" I responded with what seems like the right answer, "He drowns the word sustainability in a bathtub."

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For most investors, "sustainability" isn't about doing the right thing. The conversation has evolved. It's about doing the smart thing. This demands an answer to the fundamental question: Does it pay to invest in sustainability?

Early results are in.

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Clinton Leads New Effort Against Climate-Heating Gases

Coalition to Curb Short-lived Climate Pollutants

Public interest in climate change policy has dropped off since its 2009 peak, when nations failed to reach a comprehensive, binding legal agreement during negotiations in Copenhagen. The climate itself never got the memo.

That's why Secretary of State Hillary Clinton yesterday unveiled a new international coalition of countries that aims to curb “short-lived” climate pollutants such as black carbon, refrigerants and methane. These chemicals stay in the atmosphere for much less time than carbon dioxide, the main driver of climate change, which can hang in the air for decades or centuries.

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10Q: How AES Captures and Stores the Wind

Wind Energy Storage

Wind farms have a problem: the wind. Turbines churn out power when conditions permit and idle when they don’t. This intermittency creates no end of headaches for grid operators trying to balance electricity supply and demand. They often require coal power as a backup, which undermines carbon-free wind.

AES Energy Storage President Chris Shelton says that battery storage can make wind power more--not less--reliable than the fossil fuel incumbents. The AES Corp. unit last September opened its first energy storage project, a 32-megawatt system that will be linked to a 98-megawatt West Virginia wind farm. Their sealed lithium-ion batteries, originally designed for buses, fill rows of 53-foot long shipping containers.

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Good morning, and welcome back to the Griddle, a menu of fortified items for the busy person's media diet. President Barack Obama’s 2013 budget proposes $40 billion in cuts to fossil fuel credits. Sounds like a lot. The reductions would take place over the next decade, so it's really about $4 billion a year, or about 1 percent of oil & gas revenues. The subsidies are so convoluted, it's difficult to tell exactly how much the fossil fuel industries currently receive. The Environmental Law Institute found U.S. taxpayers chipped in more than $10 billion a year from 2002 to 2008. A Bloomberg New Energy Finance analysis in November showed world governments gave six times the subsidies to gasoline, coal and natural gas that they gave to wind, solar and biofuels. That came to $409 billion in fossil fuel subsidies to many of the world's most profitable companies. The generosity isn't likely to change in a divided U.S. Congress, in an election year.

And now the news:

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Sustainability Pioneer Sentenced to Prison Over Asbestos

Italian Asbestos Trial Conviction ‘Historic,’ Minister Says

A pioneer of the sustainable business movement, Swiss billionaire Stephan Schmidheiny, was sentenced today to 16 years in prison in connection with asbestos-related deaths at his former company, Eternit AG.

A court in Turin, Italy, ruled today that Schmidheiny and lead Eternit shareholder Jean-Louis Marie Ghislain de Cartier were partially responsible for hundreds of deaths and illnesses caused by asbestos in Eternit factories. They were also sentenced to pay damages, which reportedly could reach past 250 million euros ($330 million), to be determined in a separate civil proceeding to victims’ relatives and to a number of local authorities.

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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
eroston@bloomberg.net

Tom Randall, Deputy Editor
trandall6@bloomberg.net

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