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green@work : Magazine : Newlines : May/June 2006

Actions and initiatives worth noting

Schwarzenegger joins Dems to tackle emissions

The state of California, which has led the way in battling tailpipe emissions, is looking to pave the way in the fight to cut back on global warming. In early April, San Francisco hosted Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Climate Action Summit. Here, the governor called for measures that would force California businesses to track the amount of greenhouse gases (GHGs) they emit, and establish ways to limit them.

Also discussed at this summit was a market-based system similar to the initiative by the northeast and mid-atlantic states that would impose strict caps on the amount of global warming gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane, emitted by an individual company. Those whose emissions levels fall below the cap can sell unused units to businesses that exceed allotted amounts. Similar initiatives are being introduced by leading Democrats Fran Pavley, Fabian Núñez and Don Perata.

Sterling Burnett, senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis in Dallas, cited a National Center for Atmospheric Research study that global warming would only be reduced by one-fifth of a degree over 100 years if all signatories to the Kyoto Protocol Treaty met their obligations. Supporters of the measures counter with an estimated net benefit of $7 billion to $9 billion for California businesses. The fact that other states would more than likely follow California’s lead would also help in the reduction of global warming gases.

Solutions to lessening fuel consumption grows

The United States consumes 21.5 million barrels of oil per day, and the number is projected to reach 28 million by 2030. Each day 10 million barrels of oil are imported, 50 percent of which comes from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. The U.S. dependence on oil is a result of people driving farther to work and taking more trips than ever before. Meanwhile, mass transportation, which peaked around 1950, has declined since the country’s economy stabilized after World War II.

One solution is obvious: Use less oil. Walk to work, utilize mass transit and buy more fuel-efficient automobiles. Other solutions can be found growing all around us. Just ask Luke Tonachel, a vehicles analyst for the Natural Resources Defense Council. Tonachel said that now is the time to invest in technology to develop alternative fuels, better fuel-efficient vehicles and improved public transportation. In his recent speech at the University of Oregon, he expressed concern for the growing oil dependency. “We really have a five- to 10-year window to start putting these things in place before a real crisis hits.” Tonachel went on to state that “solutions are growing,” referring to the corn- and wheat-based ethanol fuels that burn cleaner than traditional gasoline.

EPA Study: Reduction in Some GHG Emissions

A recent study by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) shows that from a period between 1990 and 2004, emissions from certain GHGs dropped. Methane emissions decreased by 10 percent, and nitrous oxide emissions were down two percent. In contrast, carbon dioxide emissions rose 1.7 percent during the same time period. Fossil fuel consumption is responsible for 80 percent of all GHG emissions in the United States.

EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson was pleased with the report, saying, “The U.S. is making significant progress toward the president’s greenhouse gas reduction goals.” These goals include reducing GHG intensity in the United States by 18 percent by 2012. GHG intensity is measured by the ratio of GHG emissions to economic output.

Ethanol sends stock soaring

The Andersons Inc. of Ohio is best known for stores that feature microbrews, fresh breads and garden supplies. But its recent entry into the ethanol market has seen booming outlay as investors are betting that new energy regulations and high gas prices will steer consumers to ethanol rather than gasoline. This is just one example highlighting the soaring interest in the alternative fuel.

“Right now, making ethanol is almost like having a money machine,” said Spencer Kelly, an ethanol analyst for the Oil Price Information Service in Rockville, Md. “Ethanol looks strong as long as gasoline prices stay strong and corn prices are low.”

With refiners looking for more ethanol to replace natural-gas derivative methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) and Congress passing an energy bill requiring greater ethanol-additive use, companies involved in the future of cleaner burning fuels are cleaning up. The Andersons Inc. saw shares go from just under $8 per share in 2001 to $91.40 as recently as April 17. Other companies, such as Pacific Ethanol, are reaping benefits as well.

Analyst Paul Resnik of Dutton Associates, believes that these companies have a sound strategy for the future but warns of investing heavily in alternative fuels. Ethanol, which is a corn-based fuel, is contingent on the weather and crop conditions. An increase in the cost of corn could spike a large cost increase for these companies.

Texas town introduces biodiesel to public

For more than a year, the city of Denton in North Texas has been using biodiesel to fuel its government automobiles. Now the cleaner burning alternative fuel is available to its residents as well. The fuel, which consists of a mixture of 80 percent diesel and a 20 percent combination of cottonseed, sunflower seed, soybeans and used cooking oil, is supported by state and federal legislation to reduce toxic emissions and improve air quality.

The price of the fuel was listed at $2.69 per gallon at press time, but these prices change each shipment at Rudy’s, a Denton filling station. Robert Wolf, a partner in the Denton Rudy’s, has been using biodiesel whenever he can find it. He believes that the cleaner burning fuel will catch on. “What you look for is people who have never used it, and they try it and find it is a good alternative,” Wolf stated.

Although biodiesel fuel is a cleaner burning fuel, Blake Morgan, a spokesman for Biodiesel Industries, warned that those who use it need to be diligent about checking their fuel filters. In addition to emitting less GHGs, biodiesel fuel cleans fuel lines, and the grime that is washed away ends up in the engine’s fuel filter.

Kehoe Bill passes California Senate Committee

Legislation that would require biodiesel to be blended into California’s existing diesel fuel supply at a level of two percent by 2008, and 5 percent by 2010 is making progress. California Senate Bill 1675, sponsored by Christine Kehoe, passed the Environmental Quality Committee by a vote of 4-2.

The popularity of biodiesel comes from its ability to reduce GHGs. Biodiesel is shown to emit 70 percent less GHGs and 78 percent less carbon dioxide than diesel fuel. Made from a mixture of diesel combined with vegetable and cooking oils, biodiesel is making strides to reduce our dependency on foreign oil.

Bill 1675, which will make its way to the California Senate Committee on Appropriations, would increase the amount of biodiesel used in state from five million gallons in 2005 to 61 million gallons by 2008 and 164 million gallons by 2010. To alleviate production concerns, the National Biodiesel Board has stated that the capacity to meet these biodiesel goals currently exists.
Gore calls global warming a planetary emergency

Former Vice President Al Gore has warned of the dangers of global warming for years. Stating that the planet is likely to experience a dramatic increase in violent storms, infectious disease, deadly heat waves and rising sea levels that will force the evacuation of low-lying cities has thrust him into the spotlight in the fight to reduce GHG emissions.

Now the former presidential candidate has a new campaign on his hands, changing policies about global warming. In an effort to raise awareness of the issue, Gore has hired longtime political associate Roy Neel and is expected to release a book and movie titled “An Inconvenient Truth” in May.

This fight will pit Gore against his adversary in the 2000 presidential election, President George W. Bush. Although Bush has agreed that global warming is a problem, he disagrees with scientists that humans and the consumption of fossil fuels play such a large role in the problem. Bush also reversed a 2000 campaign pledge to regulate carbon dioxide, the chief global warming pollutant, and withdrew the United States from the Kyoto climate treaty, stating that participating in it would harm the economy of the United States.

Australian Treasurer: Time is right for alternative fuels

Citing high gasoline prices, Australian Treasurer Peter Costello has urged alternative-fuel makers to take advantage and start experimenting and producing new forms of energy. Moves to alternative sources of energy would also help break Australia’s dependence on foreign oil, which recently reached record prices, selling for more than $72 a barrel for crude.

Costello has told reporters that high gasoline prices are “not good for motorists, it’s not good for consumers, it’s not good for business, it’s not good for the economy. We had hoped that these extraordinary high prices would pass through the system, but they have now continued for months, and you’d have to say that until such time that world supply is boosted, it looks like they’re going to continue.”

Australia, like California, is looking to increase the use of biodiesel fuel to help wean itself from foreign oil dependency.

 Central America powering up with ethyl alcohol

Following Brazil’s guide as Latin America’s alternative energy leader, Central American nations such as Guatemala, Honduras and Costa Rica are using ethyl alcohol, made from sugar byproduct mixed with gasoline, as a cleaner, cheaper alternative fuel. Not only is the alternative fuel helping the environment, but it is breathing a new life into the area’s sugar industry.

High oil prices mixed with local poverty have led this region to develop less expensive means of energy. With sugar producers planting as much as 22,700 additional acres in Honduras of the crop, the job growth is also starting to be seen.

In Brazil, three-quarters of all new cars burn either ethanol or gasoline depending on which is cheaper at the pump, and ethanol is now available at nearly all of the country’s 34,000 gas stations.

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