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green@work : Magazine : Newlines : May/June 2003

Newslines
Actions and initiatives worth noting

2003

Electric Power Group Tackles Climate Change

The Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies (CERES) released the consensus recommendations of the first stage of CERES’ Electric Power Dialogue among power companies, investors and environmental groups that have been meeting over the last year. The Electric Power/Investor Dialogue Recommendations were developed and agreed to by eight electric power companies—including some largely reliant on coal—with approximately $55 billion in annual revenues, nine investment funds representing over $190 billion in assets, two investment advisory firms and five major public interest and environmental groups.

Three dialogue participants—Connecticut State treasurer Denise Nappier, Douglas Cogan of the Investor Responsibility Research Center, and Mark Brownstein of PSEG—testified on the financial and business risks of climate change before the Senate EPW subcommittee’s hearing on the proposed “Clear Skies” initiative for the electric power industry.

Recommendations begin with a consensus statement asserting that climate change is a serious “environmental and financial” threat. The statement continues, “Many electric companies in the United States emit significant amounts of greenhouse gases, and believe it is in their shareholders’ and the public’s interest for them to act now to reduce those emissions. But they confront the problem that financial and electricity markets do not reward, and in some cases punish, proactive efforts that anticipate environmental issues such as climate change.”

The report makes four over-arching recommendations:

  • Senior management and directors of electric companies and investors should actively engage in the climate change issue.
  • Investors and electric companies should quantify and analyze climate change financial risk.
  • Government should enact a national mandatory market-based climate change program to limit greenhouse gas emissions to create certainty for both electric utilities and investors.
  • Government must help transform the market for clean energy technologies.

The recommendations are predicated on a major consensus finding of the group: “Greenhouse gas emissions, including carbon dioxide emissions, will be regulated in the U.S. The issue is not whether the U.S. government will regulate these emissions, but when and how.” Electric power companies participating in the dialogue said compliance would be cheaper for industry in the long-term if carbon emissions are regulated now.

To download the recommendations and listen to the news conference about its release, visit: http://ceres.org/news room/press/electricrecs.htm.


More Fuel Cell Vehicles Hit the Road

DaimlerChrysler will collaborate with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and UPS with the goal of creating the first fuel cell delivery vehicle demonstration program in North America. The demonstration program will be based in Ann Arbor, MI, at the EPA National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory. The DaimlerChrysler fuel cell vehicles will be used in normal UPS delivery operation on an established delivery route, and they will be fueled at a hydrogen refueling station built by the EPA.

An F-Cell, a Mercedes-Benz A-Class powered by a Ballard fuel cell, will be delivered in 2003 for use as an express-delivery vehicle by UPS. In 2004, a fuel cell Dodge Sprinter will be delivered as the first medium-duty fuel cell commercial delivery vehicle to be put in service in North America.

This program will enable DaimlerChrysler to continue evaluating fuel cell vehicle attributes, such as fuel economy, cold-weather operation and driving performance. It also will allow the EPA, DaimlerChrysler and UPS to gain considerable operational experience with a fuel cell fleet vehicle and hydrogen refueling station. DaimlerChrysler’s efforts to put fuel cell vehicles into real-world use, in addition to this agreement, include 60 F-Cell vehicles and 30 Citaro fuel cell buses that the company will have on public roads worldwide by 2004.

Social Responsibility Drives Purchase Decisions

The Natural Marketing Institute’s (NMI) second annual survey of the Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability (LOHAS) marketplace reveals consumers have a strong and growing interest in various environmental, social, personal development and values-based issues. In fact, nearly one-third of U.S. consumers, or 68 million adults, are concerned about various environmental and social issues and are conscientious of those issues when making purchase decisions—showing seven percent growth versus 2002.

Overall, consumers indicate high interest levels in protecting the environment (91 percent), socially responsible business practices (83 percent), and preference for purchasing products made in a sustainable manner (59 percent). What is most interesting and relevant for manufacturers and marketers is that many consumers incorporate those related attitudes into their purchase decisions across many different products. As proof of the growing LOHAS marketplace, consumers show strong interest in a variety of specific products including: energy efficient appliances (96 percent); renewable power (74 percent); organic food (53 percent); hybrid vehicles (56 percent); and many additional products and services that were included in this study.

The research results, based on responses from over 2,000 U.S. adults conducted in April 2003, have been published in a series of nine research reports entitled, Understanding the LOHAS Consumer Report. These comprehensive reports analyze dynamic consumer attitudes, behaviors, product usage, lifestyles and demographics, among other topics. For more information, visit www.nmisolutions.com.

The Electronics Waste Debate

Electronics makers are feeling the pressure to cut a deal for a national take-back program, given that 26 states have introduced no less than 52 bills that would force the issue of recycling one way or another, according to State Recycling Laws Update from Raymond Communications, Inc. Both California and Massachusetts lawmakers are moving on manufacturer “takeback” (or EPR) bills.

The stakes are high, because if states try to implement a patchwork of individual “take-back” laws, “it could be disastrous,” says publisher Michele Raymond, who has been tracking recycling policy for 15 years. “Many of these bills have not been thought through very well. There is a presumption that there are only a few computer ‘manufacturers’ out there, and that there will magically be U.S. markets for all of the material generated.”

Consumers are now up to their ears in piles of E-junk collecting in their garages and basements. Without a coherent national plan, they will be stuck paying for needlessly complex recycling systems, with very little environmental benefit.

“ If a state wants to require reporting and take-back of electronics items, they will have to locate all of the manufacturers,” she notes. One often-ignored fact is that a large percentage of computers sold are “boxes,” assembled by local computer firms. Moreover, the majority of electronics items and parts are made in Asia, so finding and forcing some of these companies to report and take back or pay fees could be nearly impossible.

Most of the bills focus on keeping cathode ray tubes (CRTs) out of landfills. In fact, four states (California, Massachusetts, Maine and Minnesota) have now banned CRTs from landfills. While no one wants the leaded glass in incinerators or landfills, recyclers say that within a few years, there may not be any U.S. markets for recycled CRT glass. There are only four U.S. manufacturers, and they are having a difficult time competing with cheap Chinese imports.

“ The big issue is not toxicity or whether retailers can take back old units—but how to deal with the really old stuff in people’s garages. There are hundreds of millions of old computers, TVs, printers out there in storage. That’s going to take cooperation of government and industry to cope with. No one has a clear handle on the volume or toxicity—and no one wants to foot the bill.”

Raymond is critical of industry on one point: computers need to be designed for upgradability, not obsolescence. “Long life would mean less waste. In this economy, small businesses cannot afford to replace their computers every two years.”

Raymond Communications publishes SRLU and Recycling Laws International. The in-depth report, Electronics Recycling: What to Expect from Global Mandates, will be updated in August. For information, visit www.raymond.com.

Consolidated Audit of Corporate Accountability

The Future 500, a global not-for-profit network of leadership companies, will release a new version of the popular software tool used by major companies to help them comply with increasing demands for corporate accountability. The “Corporate Accountability Gap Audit” tool consolidates 12 leading standards into a single software-driven survey, calibrated to detect gaps in a company’s overall corporate accountability and sustainability practices. The audit returns performance scores for each standard, benchmarks against prevailing stakeholder expectations, analyzes the results, and provides a short list of actions to enhance corporate performance and reporting and reduce risk and liabilities.

For more details or information on how to apply the tool, contact Nikole Wilson at: nikole@globalfutures.org or 415-364-3803; or visit www.future500.org.

Lost Revenues from Forests

Undervaluing the economic worth of forests causes governments around the world to lose some $5 billion a year in taxes and royalties, according to a report of the Secretary-General of the United Nations. This amount is equal to more than three times the level of official development assistance for financing sustainable forest management.

Inadequate tax collection decreases government revenues, poses as a disguised subsidy to producers and reinforces wasteful logging. The problem is typically an indication of improper accounting of forest resources and poor forest valuation. With prices that do not reflect the real value of the products and malfunctioning market mechanisms, illegal economic activities flourish and forest cover continues to decline. According to the Secretary-General’s report, which was prepared in collaboration with the World Bank, annual losses from illegal logging exceed $10 billion. The estimated net loss of forests in the 1990s as a whole was 94 million hectares—an area larger than Venezuela.

“ Healthy market practices and responsible forest policies are the best tools for achieving sustainable forest management,” said Pekka Patosaari, coordinator for the Forest Forum, the key intergovernmental body to facilitate and coordinate implementation of sustainable forest management worldwide.

Forests provide more than wood or non-wood products. They also contribute to conserving biodiversity, mitigating climate change, protecting watersheds and generating employment, as well as having recreational and spiritual value. Market-based instruments for environmental protection, such as payments for the capacity of forests to absorb carbon dioxide, are only emerging. With timely and up-to-date information about the prevalent international prices for forest products, the report suggests, illegal activities will be reduced, bringing in more money to government coffers.

More information about the Forest Forum, including official documents, can be found at www.un.org/esa/forests.

Kinko’s Expands Green Power

Kinko’s, Inc. and Idaho Power Company have announced that three Kinko’s locations served by Idaho Power have switched to renewable energy. This “green power” deal enables Kinko’s Boise and Pocatello branches to purchase a portion of their electricity from renewable resources.

The new agreement is expected to result in Kinko’s purchasing more than 185,000-kilowatt hours (kWh) of renewable energy each year. The reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions resulting from this purchase is equivalent to taking three vehicles off the road.

Kinko’s first began purchasing green power in Idaho at the company’s Coeur d’Alene and Moscow locations in 2002. Nationwide, Kinko’s purchases renewable energy at more than 210 branches in 13 states for an estimated 13.9 million kilowatt hours (kWh) per year.

Dow, GM Partner on Fuel Cell Transaction

The Dow Chemical Co., the world’s largest chemical manufacturer, and General Motors Corp., the world’s largest automobile manufacturer, have reached initial understanding on what might be the world’s largest fuel cell transaction to date. The intent of the agreement is for GM to commercialize its hydrogen fuel cell technology to generate electricity from hydrogen created as a co-product at Dow’s operations in Freeport, TX, Dow’s largest manufacturing facility.

If tests proceed according to plan, Dow could eventually use up to 35 megawatts of power generated by 500 GM fuel cell units on an ongoing basis. This is enough electricity to power 25,000 homes for a year and is more than 15 times bigger than any other known fuel cell transaction. The test is expected to begin during the fourth quarter of 2003 and to run through 2005, with plans to commercialize starting in 2006. Dow and GM teams are currently working to remove the final hurdles for placing the fuel cells in Dow’s chemical manufacturing facility. A final agreement between the two industrial giants is expected to be signed in the next few months.

Both Dow and GM are members of the Green Power Market Development Group, a unique partnership between the World Resources Institute (www.wri.org) and 12 major U.S. corporations, dedicated to building corporate markets for green power.

Wind Farms Don’t Hurt Property Values

The presence of commercial-scale wind turbines does not appear to harm “view shed” property values, according to a study by the Renewable Energy Policy Project (REPP). The REPP study systematically analyzes property values data in order to examine the charge often voiced by wind farm opponents that wind development will lower the value of property within view of the turbines. Wind power has grown at an average rate of 24.5 percent in the United States over the past five years, and there are now utility-scale projects in 27 states across the country.

The REPP study looked at wind development projects with a generating capacity of 10 megawatts (MW) or more that were installed in the United States from 1998 to 2001, and analyzed data from the projects for which there were enough sales or other data to support statistical analysis. The study found no evidence that property values decreased as a result of the wind farms. In fact, the study found that “for the great majority of projects the property values actually rose more quickly in the view shed than they did in the comparable community. Moreover, values increased faster in the view shed after the projects came on-line than they did before.” The research group noted that values may have risen because of factors other than wind.
For a copy of the study, contact REPP at publications@repp.org or visit www.repp.org.

Civic Hybrid Earns AT-PZEV Status

The 2003 Honda Civic Hybrid is the first-ever hybrid vehicle to earn certification as an Advanced Technology Partial Zero-Emissions Vehicle (AT-PZEV) from California’s Air Resources Board (CARB). The 2003 Civic Hybrid, currently sold in California, is the only hybrid vehicle to achieve this stringent emissions level, producing about 90 percent fewer smog-forming engine emissions than required of a typical new vehicle. The Civic Hybrid joins the natural gas-powered Civic GX as the only two vehicles to achieve AT-PZEV status under California’s Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV) program.

To achieve the AT-PZEV emissions classification, a vehicle must be a Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle (SULEV) with zero evaporative emissions and must carry a 15-year/150,000-mile warranty on emissions equipment.

Correction

In “The Two Faces of Sustainable Business,” included in the May/June issue, we incorrectly stated that Senator Jon Corzine and Randy Overbey were members of the board of directors for the World Resources Institute. While both keynoted at the WRI’s Sustainable Enterprise Summit, they do not serve on the WRI’s board. We apologize for the error.

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