Sunday, May 25, 2008

Daily Grist: Bay Area biz will pay carbon fee, Big Oil claims victimhood, and more


4.4 Cents and Sensibility
Bay Area initiates first-of-its-kind fee on biz greenhouse-gas emissions

Businesses in nine San Francisco Bay Area counties will pay 4.4 cents for every ton of greenhouse gases they spew, after the district air-quality board voted 15-1 Wednesday to approve the fee. Set to take effect July 1, the fee will affect more than 2,500 businesses; the district estimates that perhaps seven power plants and oil refineries will have to pay more than $50,000 a year, but most businesses will pay less than $1. The fee is modest enough that dramatic emissions reductions are unlikely to occur, but proponents laud the precedent. Businesses were, unsurprisingly, less enthusiastic, expressing concerns about the cost of tracking and reporting emissions, duplication of state efforts to address warming, and the authority of an air-pollution board to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions. The fee is expected to generate $1.1 million in the first year, which will help pay for projects aimed at reducing the region's emissions.

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sources: Associated Press, The Mercury News, San Francisco Chronicle
see also, in Grist: Boulder, Colo., passes municipal carbon tax

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Slick Schmooze
Big Oil tries to evade blame for high energy prices

It's a cryin' shame that energy prices are so high, but it's totally not Big Oil's fault, top execs at the five largest oil companies told a Senate panel Wednesday. Big guns from BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon, and Shell -- almost all the same rich white guys that gathered at a similar hearing last month -- said the record price of oil is a supply-and-demand problem. It's Congress who should initiate the fix, they said, by letting Big Oil stick its drills in more U.S. land and offshore areas, resisting "punitive" taxes on oil companies' windfall profits, and avoiding policies too favorable to clean energy. "We support incentives for alternatives, but taking one form of energy to encourage production of another will reduce the ability to keep up with growing U.S. energy demand," said Robert Malone of BP. "This nation should be encouraging production of all forms of energy, especially oil and gas." Emphasis ours. Because really, wow.

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sources: Thomson Financial News, Associated Press, CNNMoney, Houston Chronicle

Grease Is the Way We Are Stealin'
Thieves targeting used cooking oil

Leftover cooking grease is a hot commodity these days, and restaurants across the country are reporting being hit by slippery-fingered thieves. Biodiesel producers must legally register with the U.S. EPA, but DIY biofuelers are helping themselves to waste cooking oil as its value skyrockets along with the price of diesel. David Levenson, owner of a grease-hauling business in San Francisco, has contracts with local restaurants, but says his drivers too often find empty barrels on their cooking-oil runs. Other grease haulers say oil thievery has lost them thousands of dollars. Says Levenson, "It's like a war zone going on right now over grease." We can just hear the thieves now: "I stole grease under sniper fire!"

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source: Associated Press

In Good Company
Green group highlights biz innovations

The Environmental Defense Fund has produced a new report highlighting processes, products, and technologies that are making the biz world more eco-friendly. The green group's Innovations Review 2008 draws attention to developments good for both business and the environment. The report focuses specifically on innovations on the cusp: not yet widely implemented, but not still in the R&D phase. So what's on the horizon? Solar-power purchase agreements in the real-estate biz, data systems that help shipping fleets reach maximum efficiency, technological advances in teleconferencing, and much, much more.

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source: GreenBiz
straight to the report: Innovations Review 2008

Passing Lane
Consumers shunning hefty hybrids

Automakers may have assumed that hybrid SUVs would be a hit with the eco-minded-soccer-mom market, but drivers aren't buying it -- literally. Analysts are seeing a tepid reaction to SUVs like the Chevy Tahoe Hybrid and hybrid GMC Yukon, both launched in fall 2007. Concern about climate change and fuel prices has attached a stigma to large cars that isn't much lessened by the word "hybrid" plastered all over it, say analysts. Most consumers are flocking to smaller, more fuel-efficient cars, though original Tahoes and Yukons have also been selling significantly better than their hybrid counterparts -- likely thanks to the fact that the non-hybrids are about $20,000 cheaper.

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source: MSNBC

In Brief
Snippets from the news

• House passes renewable-energy tax incentives.

• Senate panel votes to overturn EPA's California waiver decision.

Alaska will sue over polar bears.

• Kansas lawmakers won't try to override coal-plant veto.

Hydrogen-powered phone on the horizon.

The Queen invests in the world's largest wind turbine.

• USDA eliminates pesticide-tracking program.

Ocean-seeding startup seeks funds.

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Fishing for Answers
Lessons from a sustainable-food conference at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

For people who love good food and the planet, too, few events are as exciting as the Monterey Bay Aquarium's sustainable-food conference. The annual eat 'n' greet combines luscious food with hardcore information on how we can feed ourselves in a smarter way. It was a tough assignment, but someone had to do it. Roz Cummins reports from an event full of sustenance for body and mind alike.

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new in Grist: Lessons from a sustainable-food conference at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

Coming Friday: An interview with singer-songwriter Jason Mraz

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