Sustainability Blog - The Grid
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.
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.
The global energy picture has rarely been more dynamic than it is today. The United States in just a few years has become an energy superpower, as it begins to exploit enormous shale and deep water fossil fuel reserves. The price of silicon dropped 80 percent between 2008 and 2012. More than two dozen bankruptcies of wind and solar companies is expected to spur a tripling of investment in renewables by 2030. Scientists watch warily as extreme weather events become the new normal, even as global average temperatures seem temporarily plateaued at historic highs.
Bloomberg BNA -- The University of Notre Dame is taking the reins of an index designed to help investors decide which countries are ideal for climate adaptation projects, the university said.
The index identifies countries where investment in climate change adaptation is most needed due to vulnerability to climate change impacts, and then measures readiness to absorb investment funds and apply them effectively to increase resilience.
Bloomberg BNA -- The environmental impact of doing business costs the global economy $4.7 trillion a year, according to a report released April 15 .
That figure includes the top 100 environmental impacts, such as air pollution-related health costs, the effects of greenhouse gas emissions, the loss of nature-based benefits such as carbon storage by forests, and loss of natural resources.
Sustainability initiatives assuage the conscience of executives and honor the appeals of NGOs. It's no wonder that feel-good business improvements are plentiful in most large companies.
The trouble is, as these programs mature, managers are finding that the easiest projects have already been identified. What's more, first-generation initiatives might not address unsustainable practices at the core of a business. A financial institution can reduce its carbon emissions by renting space in a green building, for example, or encourage employees to recycle, or compost cafeteria leftovers, but it's all still irrelevant to the managing market risk faced by investors.
Bloomberg New Energy Finance -- Water is a bigger concern than energy for the longevity of Las Vegas as a tourist destination and place to live, according to Tom Perrigo, sustainability officer for the city.
“We have more control over energy,” he said. “It’s obviously a big concern, but we’re an optimal region of the world for solar power. We have some fairly good wind resources and lot of geothermal resources in the state. Water, though, we only have so much control over.”
The southwest of the U.S. has suffered recurring droughts since the beginning of this century and resources from its main water source, the Colorado River, are declining.
President Obama's proposed fiscal year 2014 budget includes funding to help U.S. communities increase their resilience to extreme weather and other climate change impacts.
The budget proposal also includes nearly $1 billion to address climate change on a global scale by reducing deforestation and promoting low-carbon growth in developing countries.
Here's a puzzle: How can a virtual currency, existing in digital form on computer hard drives, demand real power and real fuel, and have real-world environmental costs? If you're struggling to think of an answer, welcome to the world of "Bitcoin mining."
As a lot of folks know now, thanks to all-hands-on-deck media saturation, Bitcoin is a medium of transaction created in 2009 by an anonymous programmer to facilitate anonymous digital transactions (there’s an excellent history here). In the recent speculative mania, the value of Bitcoins skyrocketed. Before Bitcoins can be traded, though, they need to be created.