Sustainability Blog - The Grid
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:
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:
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.
India is known for setting ambitious development goals and then missing them by a margin that might be laughable if it weren’t so serious. Case in point: Seven years ago, the slogan ‘Power for All by 2012,’ became national policy. Today, India has 288 million people living without electricity access, according to a November 2011 International Energy Agency report.
Renewable energy offers an exception to India’s history of overpromised goals.
Good afternoon, and welcome back to the Griddle, a menu of fortified items for the busy person's media diet. Much of the 2012 U.S. presidential election cycle has focused on one word -- jobs -- and the rival approaches that might best relieve the nation's 13 million unemployed. Employers are watching. Vestas, the world's largest wind-turbine manufacturer, announced a major restructuring this week, eliminating 2,335 jobs. The Danish company has threatened to fire an additional 1,600 U.S. workers if Congress does not extend a wind-industry tax credit. That treatment is a blow to the president's 'green' bona fides and puts Republicans in the position of having to choose between jobs and using federal spending to keep them. CEO Ditlev Engel told Bloomberg News he'll take his cues from Washington: "We will evaluate it during 2012 depending entirely on how the political situation evolves."
And now, the week's best of Bloomberg Sustainability:
Markets link people around the world in unexpected ways. We all know that. Seeing it up close is something else.
Last year, when cotton prices reached their highest level since the U.S. Civil War, we went looking for those human connections and the consequences.
Good afternoon, and welcome back to the Griddle, a menu of fortified items for the busy person's media diet. Thank an unusually powerful jet stream for unseasonably warm U.S. weather. It's whipping across North America and blocking typical bouts of Arctic bluster. Another thing affected by the jet stream? Jets. United Continental's westbound transatlantic flights were forced to make almost four times the typical number of unscheduled fuel stops in December. Bryan Walsh at Time wonders "Is It Climate Change?" or is the jet stream just one more wacky weather pattern in a year that pushed the limits of wacky. The two things cannot be separated; climate change is part of the world in which we live. Heat- trapping atmospheric gases are at record levels and rising. There have been 48 record highs in New York City's Central Park since 1996 compared with just one record low, Walsh says, and climate scientists forecast more wacky winters to come.
And now the news:
Good morning, and welcome back to the Griddle, a menu of fortified items for the busy person's media diet. Countless shoppers left stores purple-faced with `retail rage' this holiday season. Companies wooed them by lowering prices, made possible by shaving costs, but failed to deliver a good shopping experience. For businesses competing in a tough economy, slashing employee headcount is an easy target -- just ask the 13 million Americans who are currently looking for work. But Marshall Fisher of the Wharton School of Business argues that eliminating jobs means cutting the muscle, not the fat, out of retail, as he explains in this post at the Harvard Business Review (our new content partner). He studied two years of store-level data and found revenue rose $10 for every extra dollar of payroll added to a store, and by as much as $28 for stores that were especially understaffed. For customers, employees and companies, better service really should be all the rage.
And now the news:
Good morning, and welcome back to the Griddle, a menu of fortified items for the busy person's media diet. After floods in Colombia made a rough year for coffee growers, 2012 is expected bring a bounty, thanks to bean-friendly weather in Brazil, Lucia Kassai of Bloomberg News reported today. Brazilian flooding missed the bulk of this year's record crop -- little consolation for the 22,000 now-homeless Brazilians who didn't.
And now, following a second cup, the news:
The temperature in Montgomery County, Maryland, topped 60 degrees Fahrenheit last weekend. Bright atmospheric conditions couldn't dissuade my four-year-old daughter and me from heading indoors to ice-skate (first time!). As we walked to the car afterwards, M. noticed a dandelion, which she picked and marveled at. My two thoughts: First, that's extremely weird for Jan. 8, and second, she has no idea how weird it is.
Dandelions, crocuses, cherries and hydrangeas are blooming around the Washington metropolitan area. "They don't have clocks," said Laura Miller, the county's forest conservation coordinator, when I called her yesterday. "They just have to hit a certain cold [temperature] for a certain period of time," before they reset for spring. Unseasonably warm weather and the lengthening days of sunshine were enough to trick the dandelions.