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

Is Obama Really Waging a War on Coal? 

Coal Storage -- Power plant operators are shuttering aging coal facilities at record rates—a trend presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his supporters pin squarely on EPA air pollution rules.

"People in the coal industry feel like it's getting crushed by your policies," Romney told Obama during the first debate. "Stop the War on Coal. Fire Obama" signs dot lawns in coal-producing swing states, and Twitter is full of posts commenting on the "war on coal" refrain.

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What Is The Future Of King Coal In China?

What Is The Future Of King Coal In China?

World Resources Institute -- When it comes to coal consumption, no other nation comes close to China. The country reigns as the world’s largest coal user, burning almost half of the global total each year. About 70 percent of China’s total energy consumption and nearly 80 percent of its electricity production come from coal, and its recent shift from being a historical net coal exporter to the world’s largest net coal importer took only three years.

China’s great thirst for coal is undeniably troubling from a sustainable development standpoint. However, the situation may be changing. I recently joined three other experts to speak at a Congressional briefing entitled, “Why China Is Acting on Clean Energy: Successes, Challenges, and Implications for U.S. Policy.”While my fellow speakers spoke about the progress of clean energy development in China, I sought to explain how the growing constraints on coal development are acting as one factor pushing China to move more aggressively towards clean energy.

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The Last Hunger Season: A Year in an African Farm Community

Pull a book about food security off a shelf and it’s likely to be an academic treatise or sentimental rant shaped by developed-nation biases. Lost among numbing statistics or chest-thumping screeds -- Monsanto is evil! Particularly in Africa! -- are the stories of individuals who suffer. Also lost: genuine promise that their lives can improve. 

Enter Roger Thurow, a veteran reporter who covered two-dozen African nations over 20 years for the Wall Street Journal. His new book, The Last Hunger Season: A Year in an African Farm Community on the Brink of Change, brings welcome clarity and humanity to what can be a complex topic fractured by decades-old either-or propositions: Is trade with developing nations better than direct foreign aid? Is acceptance of aid an acquiescence into a kind of neo-colonialism? Once aid is given, is it ever possible to grow past it so it isn't needed anymore?

Read more » -- The hidden, long-term effects of the 2010 pipeline accident that spilled more than a million gallons of heavy Canadian crude oil into Michigan's Kalamazoo River became public last week when the EPA revealed that large amounts of oil are still accumulating in three areas of the river.

The problem is so serious that the EPA is asking Enbridge Inc., the Canadian pipeline operator, to dredge approximately 100 acres of the river. During the original cleanup effort, dredging was limited to just 25 acres because the EPA wanted to avoid destroying the river's natural ecology. The additional work could take up to a year and add tens of millions of dollars to a cleanup that has already cost Enbridge $809 million.

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Great Moments in Sustainability History, Part I

American Business in 1946

Fortune magazine polled businessmen about their responsibilities beyond the balance sheet. The questions are more charming and verbose than most posed by contemporary pollsters. They also offer a nice snapshot of how business media tackled what we now call "sustainability":

A few years ago it was frequently said that businessmen ought to acquire a 'social consciousness.' What was usually meant was that businessmen were responsible for the consequences of their actions in a sphere somewhat wider than that covered by their profit-and-loss statements. Do you think that businessmen should recognize such responsibilities and do their best to fulfill them?

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China’s Emissions Trading May Spur Global Accord, Report Says

China, the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases linked to climate change, may create the impetus for a global carbon market as it begins pilot trading programs, according to the Climate Institute.

“China’s emerging schemes can dovetail with other global schemes as a stepping stone towards a global climate change agreement by 2015,” John Connor, chief executive officer of the Sydney-based institute that commissioned a report released today, said in an e-mailed statement.

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Sustainability Indicator: 46,380 Prius Sales


Today's sustainability indicator, 46,380, is the number of Toyota Prius sales in 2012 so far in California, where the fuel-sipping hybrid surpassed the Honda Civic to become the top-selling car. Gas prices in the Golden State are about 76 cents higher than the national average. 

Recent indicators:

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John Liu's films bring ecological education to China

If you live in any major city these days, you're probably used to regular prods to "Save the Earth" from just about any direction the penny flips: Change your light bulbs! Reuse grocery bags! Cut your carbon! If you're not already turned off by the borderline sanctimony of the green police, you should know that profligate energy and resource mass consumption is a systemic problem that individual consumer behavior basically can't change.

John D. Liu, an environmental filmmaker in Beijing, brings light to what individuals can do about collective behavior. Consumers act "without understanding how the basic ecosystems function," Liu said. That knowledge is fundamental if economies are to value them appropriately -- and ultimately fix problems, he said.

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Working with nature

Here's an axiom at the core of financial markets that's worth stating explicitly once in a while: Lenders need information to know if borrowers are trustworthy. That's why investors and governments have developed elaborate practices detailing the information companies must or should publicly disclose about how they operate.

These disclosure guidelines aren't written in stone. They're written on paper, and every so often trends in big business recommend that it be updated. The impetus this time: More and more businesses, organizations and investors are adjusting their long-term goals and operations for a world expecting 2 billion more middle-class consumers, scarcer resources and a changing climate. The practice of adjusting these corporate goals and operations travels under the name “sustainability.”

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Presidential Showdown Evokes Last Call for Climate Debate

Thousands Make Plea to Include Climate Change in Debates -- Aside from Mitt Romney's recent jab at Barack Obama's concern over global warming—and the president's tit-for-tat response —climate change has been largely under the radar in the campaign.

But several groups, backed by hundreds of thousands of petitions, are trying to change that, at least for one night.

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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

Tom Randall, Deputy Editor

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