Sustainability Blog - The Grid
A peculiar 100-foot crater opened up in a gas-producing region of northern Russia last month, and scientists are coming to initial conclusions about what caused it: Methane gas escaping from melting permafrost, possibly blowing through the ground in an explosion, according to reports.
Scientists' early assessment is just that, preliminary, but not without data behind it. The bottom of the crater tested for methane levels up to 9.6 percent of the air content, which is about 54,000 times normal levels.
Bloomberg BNA -- A more stringent national ambient air quality standard for ozone could cost the U.S. economy up to $270 billion per year and force the closure of one-third of the nation's coal-fired power plants, according to a report commissioned by the National Association of Manufacturers.
The report, released July 31, outlines the economic effects of revising the current ozone standard of 75 parts per billion to 60 parts per billion, the lowest level being considered by the Environmental Protection Agency. The agency is under a court-ordered deadline to issue a proposal on whether to retain or revise the existing ozone standard by Dec. 1.
Happy Friday! Here are today's top reads:
- California’s exceptional drought just keeps getting worse (Bloomberg)
- Falcons vs. windmills (NY Times)
- Using CO2 emissions to pump oil may help the climate (Climate Central)
- Cause of mysterious Siberian holes possibly found (Scientific American)
- Actually, some material goods can make you happy (Atlantic)
- Ben & Jerry’s throws fudge brownie into GMO food fight (Bloomberg)
- We're moving beyond energy efficiency into 'demand destruction' (CityLab)
- Turning a slate quarry green: 40 years of Centre for Alternative Technology (Guardian)
- Trees are heroes: They save hundreds of lives a year (Fast Company)
- Should the government be worried about stoned drivers? (National Journal)
Visit The Grid for the latest about energy, natural resources and global business.
Bloomberg BNA -- United Parcel Service Inc., which reached a 2016 goal of reducing global carbon dioxide emissions by 10 percent three years early, has a new target: 20 percent by 2020.
The world's largest package-delivery company plans to use more alternative-fuel vehicles and expand its ORION software in the U.S. as part of that effort, Chief Sustainability Officer Rhonda Clark said in a telephone interview.
California’s three-year drought just went from bad to dreadful. In the course of the last week, the crimson expanse of “exceptional drought” grew to engulf the northern part of the state.
The chart above shows the drought's progression as reported today by the U.S. Drought Monitor. Archived maps show the end of July for each year since 2011.
Amazon's new unlimited book-borrowing service may bring in $1 billion a year in sales for the company. Don't be one of the suckers.
Kindle Unlimited charges $9.99 a month for an all-you-can-read buffet. For roughly the same cost of unlimited movies on Netflix or unlimited music on Spotify, you can download all the books you’ll never have time to read.
Good afternoon! Here are today's top reads:
- This happened while everybody was putting on war paint for the Obama climate hearings (Bloomberg)
- The biggest threat to the economy is from outer space (Bloomberg)
- Waiting to slash CO2 emissions? It could cost you (Climate Central)
- Mitch McConnell's musical attack on EPA (National Journal)
- The carbon dividend (NY Times)
- California Joins Mexico in Clean-Energy Pact (Bloomberg)
- Green groups too white and too male compare to other sectors (Guardian)
- Strong, clear bioplastic containers could be made from rice (Scientific American)
- Three ways to grow more food without stressing the environment (Fast Company)
- Air pollution and climate change could mean 50% more people going hungry by 2050 (Carbon Brief)
Visit The Grid for the latest about energy, natural resources and global business.
Bloomberg BNA — California and Mexico have signed a bilateral pact aimed at advancing cross-border investments in clean energy.
Signed July 29 by California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) and Mexico's Secretary of Energy Pedro Joaquin Coldwell during the governor's trade visit to Mexico City, the agreement calls for the two governments to work together in developing and deploying renewable energy, biofuels and other clean energy technologies.
Supporters and foes of President Obama’s climate change policy are airing their thoughts publicly this week during two-day hearings in each of four cities.
In Denver yesterday, an opponent called the White House’s proposed power-plant rules “a war on prosperity.” Some supporters by contrast wore “I (heart) Clean Air” T-shirts to the event.
What’s weird is this: Companies set climate goals informed by the same science and internationally agreed upon goals as the president’s, but nobody’s losing their breath attacking or defending them.
On Monday, General Mills added to its website a “Policy on Climate,” which lays out risks that businesses, governments and citizens expect -- crop and water stress, population growth, extreme weather -- and how the company will change its operations to face them. It endorsed international negotiators’ goal to keep global warming below two degrees Celsius (we’re up 0.85 degrees C since 1880). And it vowed to participate in policy discussions with government.
No one’s made “I (heart) Green Giant” shirts for a company that’s actually older than the State of Colorado.
No one’s bemoaning General Mills’s war on coal and shareholders. That’s because there isn’t one.
“Changes in climate not only affect global food security but also impact General Mills’ raw material supply which, in turn, affects… value to our shareholders,” the policy states, in its clunky bureaucratic prose.
Come to think of it, prose this clunky and bureaucratic must actually mean something. If corporate sustainability reports are off-putting because of their gloss and self-congratulatory hyperbole, the Policy on Climate should be credited for having no pictures adorning it and including statements so inscrutable they can only have been written by lawyers who are serious.
So let's puzzle through what they're saying: “Government policies that provide proportionate and clear guidance on mitigation and adaptation are essential for large scale progress.”
Does “guidance” mean only toothless, voluntary efforts? What does the implied phrase “proportionate guidance” mean?
The media office clarified: “Guidance is an umbrella term for government action that could include recommended voluntary efforts, regulation or taxation.”
“Proportionate guidance” means that policies shouldn’t punish one sector or group over others.
Will a vow of rigor and seriousness from one company solve the problem? No. Has the economic mainstream realized that this is a pretty big deal and they better get crackin'? Yes.
The new company policy goes on to list more than a dozen initiatives employees will take to reduce their climate pollution and adapt to the warming world. These include working with suppliers, who produce most of the emissions General Mills is ultimately responsible for; working with governments and civil society groups on water and land-use practices; and technology investment.
General Mills joins a handful of companies who are bringing renewed scientific rigor to their climate strategies. General Electric, Colgate and Brown-Forman earlier this year, for example, adopted a framework developed by WWF, CDP and McKinsey to help companies make absolute pollution cuts.
The maker of Cheerios and Wheaties has no position on either the White House's proposed climate rules or congressional opposition to them. But for General Mills, and other large companies waiting for some kind of "proportionate and clear guidance," the first real draft may well be on its way.
Threats to the electric grid are coming from everywhere: saboteurs, weather and, as silly as it sounds, from outer space. The danger is significant and growing, and business risk managers are taking it seriously.
The latest warning comes from Paul Singer’s Elliott Management Corp., a $24.8 billion hedge-fund firm based in New York. Singer warned investors, in a letter obtained by Bloomberg News, of what he sees as the gravest threat: an electromagnetic pulse from the Sun that knocks out the grid for months or longer.