Sustainability Blog - The Grid
Power is restored in India, which experienced the worst blackouts in the history of human-generated electricity. An estimated 360 million people lost power on July 30. The next day, over 600 million people were blacked out. With the lights back on, now it’s time to restore the credibility of the sector and the country.
Scores of recommendations have been put forward to prevent this catastrophe in the future. Thermal power producers prescribe ramping up coal-fired power. Clean energy advocates suggest using distributed renewable sources, because coal-generated power causes greenhouse gas emissions and uses a lot of water, which is in short supply. Industry analysts and financial institutions recommend raising electricity prices in line with the underlying fuel costs. Demand to privatize the financially distraught state-owned power distribution companies -- called “discoms” -- is back in the newspaper editorials as well.
Short words make thoughts clearer. Most people prefer them.
The word "sustainability," as previously reported, is six syllables long, like each of the first two sentences of this post. In the age of Twitter, you don’t get much more than six syllables to communicate an entire thought. When NASA’s Curiosity rover safely landed on Mars early this morning, the agency tweeted “Touchdown confirmed.” After six syllables of “sustainability” you’re left only with glazed-over interlocutors.
Blackouts in India this week left more than 640 million people without power. Even after the grid was restored, more than 400 million people in India still don’t have access to the energy they need for modern life.
They never had it in the first place.
Maggie Koerth-Baker, science editor at BoingBoing.net, says she was motivated to write her latest book, ``Before the Lights Go Out,'' after listening to her husband, an energy efficiency analyst, come home and talk shop.
He would describe all the things that experts understand but that people actually making decisions about energy -- the building owners, politicians, consumers -- "don't really get,'' Koerth-Baker said in an interview.
If the 2008 financial crisis laid bare nearsightedness in global financial markets, then the way to prevent future shocks is to give participants “wider and better quality lenses,” according to a new report published by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD).
The report, titled Financial Stability and Systemic Risk: Lenses and Clocks, applies the principles of sustainable finance and responsible investment to post-2008 debates about the stability of the global financial system. The authors emphasize the importance of grounding market behavior with an understanding of modern risks to financial markets -- everything from inadequate capital requirements to climate change.
Wal-Mart turned 50 years old this month. Founder Sam Walton’s first shop in Rogers, Arkansas, has grown into a 10,185-store chain spanning 27 countries. Many suppliers rely on Wal-Mart, now the fourth-largest company in the world, for large portions of their revenue. For example, the company provides Procter & Gamble, the world's biggest maker of consumer goods, about 15 percent of sales. Wal-Mart isn't similarly beholden to any one of its many suppliers.
The company’s sustainability initiative, which began in 2005, focuses this global influence on efforts to reduce waste and shrink the environmental impacts within its supply chain.
The following is an excerpt from “The Dilbit Disaster: Inside the Biggest Oil Spill You've Never Heard of,” a seven-month investigation by InsideClimate News, a non-profit news organization focused on climate change and energy issues. To see a slideshow about the 2010 Enbridge oil spill, click here.
An acrid stench had already enveloped John LaForge's five-bedroom house when he opened the door just after 6 a.m. on July 26, 2010. By the time the building contractor hurried the few feet to the refuge of his Dodge Ram pickup, his throat was stinging and his head was throbbing.
Company executives and institutional asset managers are increasingly working sustainability into their strategy and operations. Similarly, institutional asset managers are doing the same in constructing their portfolios. Yet both groups are doing this relatively independently of each other. These two groups should and will be seeing more of each other as sustainability matures.
As it stands, engagement between executives and institutional investors is limited to stylized interactions, such as quarterly calls, investor visits, and annual meetings. These interactions involve a small number of people representing each side of the conversation -- executives on the company side, and portfolio managers and analysts on the investor side. Substantive discussions about the long term almost never happen. They should.
What is anyone to make of American public figures who even in 2012 dismiss the risks posed by manmade climate change?
After a week of record heat and wildfires, Terry Moran of ABC News posed a question to guests on July 8, on the Sunday political talk show, “This Week With George Stephanopoulos”: Why should climate change be any more controversial than, say, neuroscience or brain surgery? Mort Zuckerman, editor-in-chief of U.S. News & World Report, answered that climate change has much broader applicability than brain surgery and therefore draws a greater crowd of critics. E.J. Dionne, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, expressed incredulity about “why my conservative friends are so resistant in taking out an insurance policy… Because if we go wrong on this, we’re making an awfully big mistake.”