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

BP Must Clean up Its Own Mess: Hot off the Griddle

Good morning, and welcome back to the Griddle, a menu of fortified items for the busy person's media diet. A federal judge in New Orleans ruled Friday that BP can't collect clean-up costs from Transocean, the company's drilling contractor involved in the 2010 Gulf oil spill. For BP it's another episode of the disaster's "economic effects and the long term-damage to the reputation of the company." That's the phrase used by the Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes (DJSI) in 2010 when they booted BP from the DJSI World Index six weeks into the spill. Sometimes it takes what Dow Jones calls "extraordinary events" to reveal just how unprepared a company is to deal with extraordinary events.

And now the news:

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Measuring the Hot Air in Davos

Davos from Above

Carbon consciousness is plentiful at the World Economic Forum in Davos, where the world's filthy rich went this week to try to hash out some of the world’s most intractable problems. Less plentiful than expected: carbon pollution.

Picarro, a California-based maker of machines to measure greenhouse gases, set out to show just how much pollution the annual meeting of high-minded financiers releases into the air. The results? Negative. Davos emissions have dipped up to 50 percent since the start of the conference.

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Good afternoon, and welcome back to the Griddle, a menu of fortified items for the busy person's media diet. Farmers, gardeners, and seed-stockers take note: the world is getting warmer, and it's time to adjust your plans. That's the message behind a new, interactive U.S. Department of Agriculture "Plant Hardiness Zone Map," which shows the northward shift of the best places to grow crops. Across the Atlantic, the U.K.'s food and rural affairs department sent farmers a similar message yesterday with a national climate forecast: sugar beets and wheat yields will benefit from the rising temperatures. Sustainability means taking advantage of the opportunities, as well as coping with the risks, of the changing planet.

And now this week's best of Bloomberg Sustainability:

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The World's Most Sustainable Company: Hot off the Griddle

Good afternoon, and welcome back to the Griddle, a menu of fortified items for the busy person's media diet. Novo Nordisk, the world's biggest maker of insulin, is also the most sustainable corporation in the world. That's the conclusion of Corporate Knights magazine, which ranks companies annually based on 11 metrics, including carbon productivity (sales per greenhouse gas pollution) and taxes paid. A new category appeared this year: Employee Turnover. Sustainability is many things, and a pathway to a healthy organization is one if them. Companies often wave the green flag less to save the planet than to save themselves.

And now the news:

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Sustainability = On the Agenda = Profits

Businesses Reporting Sustainability is on the Agenda

Two big questions about the ill-defined practice we call "sustainability:" 1) Are companies really doing it?; and 2) Can it make money?

The answer to both is yes, according to MIT Sloan Management Review and Boston Consulting Group. They surveyed more than 3,000 business managers and executives from 113 countries for their third annual report on corporate sustainability. While the survey does nothing to help define sustainability and how it should be measured, the results show that whatever "it" is, companies are totally into it.

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Good afternoon, and welcome back to the Griddle, a menu of fortified items for the busy person's media diet. The most commonly asked question about the word "sustainability" isn't, "What's the key trend driver here?" but rather "What exactly are you talking about?" The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development estimates there are 1.8 billion middle-class consumers; by 2030, that number could reach 4.9 billion. That prospect is focusing minds and sharpening pencils in many executive suites. It represents the grandest of opportunities, but also raises the thorny questions: Do we have enough stuff for everyone, and if so, where should they throw it out when they're done with it? Corporate sustainability means working on those questions and divining the risks and rewards they represent. The questions are similar, but the answers are always unique.

And now the news:

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Good afternoon, and welcome back to the Griddle, a menu of fortified items for the busy person's media diet. Large institutional investors own a wide cross-section of the global economy. That exposes them to stock swings and economic slumps, but also to risks that fall outside classic investment analysis. These externalities include the largest of them all: climate change. A group of investors yesterday sent a letter to the Bank of England voicing concern that the government has failed to understand the scale of carbon risk. They urged an examination of the exposure of the nation's financial system to companies that rely on carbon emissions, mining or drilling, or other 'environmentally unsustainable' practices. "Regulators are not monitoring the concentration of high-carbon investments in the financial system and have no view on what level would be too high," the authors wrote. It's a shortcoming that's far from unique to the U.K.

And now the this week's best of Bloomberg Sustainability:

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Obama's Keystone Shot Isn't Fatal: Hot off the Griddle

Good afternoon, and welcome back to the Griddle, a menu of fortified items forthe busy person's media diet. The Keystone XL pipeline is a no-go, at least for now. That's what President Obama yesterday told Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who hoped to build the artery connecting Canadian oil sands crude to U.S. refineries. How much does the decision matter? Probably not much. While it sets up a political battle for U.S. 2012 elections, the $7 billion pipeline will likely proceed with an alternate route, and TransCanada is likely get approval by early 2013, safely after the U.S. election. From a sustainability perspective, nothing has changed. The world needs oil, and demand is strong enough to drive oil sands extraction, the energy-intensive, carbon- emitting process for mining crude from sand. Until fuel prices reflect the social and environmental costs of carbon, politically timed decisions about pipeline routes are mostly just political.

And now the news:

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MLK Jr's Legacy for Economic Growth: Hot off the Griddle

Good afternoon, and welcome back to the Griddle, a menu of fortified items for the busy person's media diet. In November 1983, when President Ronald Reagan signed legislation making the third Monday in January Martin Luther King Day, he noted that “Dr. King had awakened something strong and true, a sense that true justice must be colorblind.” The same is true for good economics. UBS last June issued an intriguing research paper, titled “Does prejudice prejudice growth?” by economist Paul Donovan. He looked at World Economic Forum competitiveness data and set it against “tolerance indicators” -- data from the World Values Study Group. The study found that competitive economies have less bigotry: “For investors, we believe prejudice in an economy should be considered a sell signal."

And now the news:

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Activ to Double Output as Europe’s Top Solar Park Finished

The season has already brought all manner wintry wonders for data junkies: record high temps, record high snowfalls, and an ongoing blizzard of clean energy investment. Neither stormy global economic conditions nor U.S. policy fiddle-faddle could impede the capital flow, which rose five percent to a record $260 billion, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The U.S. led the world, driving $55.9 billion into the sector, a 33 percent jump from 2010. It out-invested China for the first time since 2008.

The U.S. position is misleadingly strong. Project builders are scrambling for new capital without Department of Energy (DOE) loan guarantees and U.S. Treasury grants. Those tools shielded developers from costly funding schemes that squeeze their financial returns. It will be difficult if not impossible to reach 2011's records in 2012 unless private financial institutions really step up to fill the $20 billion Federal void.

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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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