Saturday, June 30, 2018

BEGINS WITH A PROMISE/Transportation Electrification Accord

We love those words:  BEGINS WITH A PROMISE.

So true.  So many good journeys in life start with an ironclad commitment.  Here we see it applied to pushing cars, trucks, buses away from gas into EV's.  It is a promise of today and, more importantly for those who come after us, and tomorrow.

You don't need to read the whole thing, but just get  a sense of how important this accord is to our future, smart mobility and, we hope, be inspired to participate and sign on to help build a brighter future.



The following sets forth principles of the Transportation Electrification Accord (the “Accord”). We invite a diverse set of organizations representing NGOs and businesses to sign onto the Accord and to use it for policy design, education and outreach.
The Accord outlines how transportation electrification can be advanced in a manner that benefits all utility customers and users of all forms of transportation, while supporting the evolution of a cleaner grid and stimulating innovation and competition for U.S. companies.


  1. There is a clear case for electrifying transportation, which can provide benefits to all consumers (including the socioeconomically disadvantaged), advance economic development, create jobs, provide grid services, integrate more renewable energy, and cut air pollution and greenhouse gases.
  2. Electrified transportation should include, not only passenger cars, but also larger vehicles (e.g., transit buses and delivery trucks), as well as off-road equipment (e.g., airport and port electrification equipment).
  3. Accelerating an appropriate deployment of electric vehicle charging infrastructure based on market penetration projections along highway corridors, as well as throughout local cities and towns, is a critical element of electrifying transportation.
  4. It is critical to support electric transportation at the state and local government levels, whether it be through governors, state legislators, state commissions, state transportation agencies, state energy offices, mayors, or local governments.
  5. Electric utilities regulated by state and local commissions and boards, who serve the interests of the state and the public at large, have made substantial progress in accelerating the retirement of costly and less efficient fossil generation, and are poised to continue to make progress in promoting innovation, spurring greater grid efficiencies, and reducing harmful air pollution.
  6. Under appropriate rules, it is in the public interest to allow investor-owned and publicly-owned utilities to participate in and facilitate the deployment of electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) and/or supporting infrastructure for residential and commercial applications in their service territories to accomplish state and local policy goals. The distribution grid is incorporating new grid-edge features such as advanced demand response and distributed energy storage. In that broader context, utilities are well positioned to ensure that installed EVSE, whether owned by utilities or other parties, maximizes the public benefits of these innovations, through appropriate integration of these technologies in order tomaximize electrical system benefits for all classes of customers.
  7. The build out of EVSE must optimize charging patterns to improve system load shape, reduce local load pockets, facilitate the integration of renewable energy resources, and maximize grid value. Using a combination of time-based rates, smart charging and rate design, load management practices, demand response, and other innovative applications, EV loads should be managed in the interest of all electricity customers.
  8. To drive innovation and foster competition in the transportation electrification space, it is vital that open charging standards or protocols are adopted for both front-end and back-end interoperability. An open system also promotes greater transparency of vital data and information, which can be shared with a variety of innovative companies. The guidelines developed by the Open Charge Alliance (OCA) should be used as the baseline. Data developed by third parties from behind-the-meter devices should also be made available to utilities for use in planning system architecture and EVSE.
  9. Consumers and EV owners will benefit greatly from a smart, efficient, and open architecture throughout the EV infrastructure. Ensuring interoperability throughout the EV architecture means that consumers should be able to roam easily among the different networks, with a common identification and authentication process, with as little hassle as possible. In addition, key consumer protection principles should be adhered to for all deployed EVSE regardless of the EVSE owner, including transparent pricing and open access policies. Drivers who charge in a manner consistent with grid conditions should realize fuel cost savings. Mapping locations and signage of the stations should also be provided for all consumers.
  10. Utilities should proactively engage their regulators, consumers and all stakeholders in developing rate designs, infrastructure deployment programs, and education and outreach efforts that benefit all utility customers and allow reasonable cost recovery, while accelerating widespread transportation electrification that supports a reliable and robust grid.
  11. Best practices, standards and codes should be a priority for all transportation electrification infrastructure installations. As new open standards and more advanced security measures are developed, these should be implemented in a timely manner by all operators of EVSE. It is critical that industry participants continue to collaborate on consistent communication protocols between the vehicle, infrastructure and grid to ensure system safety, security and reliability.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

229 acres in Cumberland set aside for water protection, recreation/PBN

Good example of private/public cooperation and investment in core natural resources, open space and quality of life.

GREEN SPACE: 229 acres of land in northeast Cumberland has been purchased for $1.5 million, primarily for conservation. / COURTESY R.I. DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT
GREEN SPACE: 229 acres of land in northeast Cumberland has been purchased by the Town of Cumberland for $1.5 million, primarily for conservation. Above, the land shaded red was involved in the transaction. / COURTESY R.I. DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT

Sisters of Mercy in Cumberland, part of an international religious institute of Catholic women, has sold most of its local property in a deal with R.I. state and local officials to protect public drinking water and preserve the land for conservation and recreation.
Announced this week, officials told Providence Business News the $1.5 million sale is designed to protect the water supply to thousands of homes and businesses in Pawtucket, Central Falls, and most of Cumberland.
“The preservation of this land will help protect the raw water used to supply a population of 125,000 retail and wholesale customers with clean, safe drinking water,” said Chris Collins, source water manager for the Pawtucket Water Supply Board.
About three years in the making, the 229-acre sale by the the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas Northeast Community to the Town of Cumberland also involves the Pawtucket Water Supply Board and the state Department of Environmental Management, among others.
SISTERS OF MERCY has sold 229 acres of land, primarily for conservation and partially for community ball fields. / COURTESY R.I. DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT
The site – with woodland, open fields, and wetlands in the northeast corner of Cumberland – is near the Diamond Hill Reservoir and the Diamond Hill Reservation.
In addition, officials said, the land will be preserved for environmental and recreational purposes, such as hiking, bird watching, and cross-country skiing. And it includes 17 acres that will be used to develop community ball fields.
Sisters of Mercy of the Americas Northeast Community will retain control of a few acres of land near the site, occupied by its administrative building, the Mount St. Rita Health Centre, and other facilities, officials said.
The sale of the 229 acres is intended to fulfill a goal for the land set many years ago.
“The Sisters of Mercy of the former Rhode Island Province voted over 30 years ago to explore options to place their sacred land in conservation,” said Sister Jacqueline Marie Kieslich, president of Mercy Northeast Community.
“This land hosted their home and center of prayer, and later, Mount St. Rita Health Centre, their health care ministry,” Sister Kieslich said.
“The sisters’ long-held intention has come to fruition at last, and we are delighted that the fields and forest lands that have given us so much joy and consolation are going to be preserved into the future,” she added.
The deal involved financial backing from the Town of Cumberland ($405,000), the Pawtucket Water Supply Board ($300,000), The Nature Conservancy ($295,000 via a grant from the Champlin Foundation), and the Cumberland Land Trust ($100,000).
Also, in exchange for a $400,000 state Open Space grant, the Town of Cumberland has conveyed a conservation easement of more than 211 acres of the land to the state Department of Environmental Management.
“History is being made with the acquisition of this prime 229-acre site,” Cumberland Mayor William Murray said. “We are preserving a wilderness, protecting our water supply, and creating 17 acres of recreation fields for our youth.”

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Trump Drowns Ocean Protections During National Ocean Month/Huff Post

Government, we know, sets the playing field on building a sustainable future.  Their policy, laws, financial incentives, mandates, goals, public support or lack of all move pieces around on the green board.  From there public sentiment and funding many times follows.

Here we see Washington pulling back on ocean protection.  Not sure what they are seeing, in terms of why the oceans no longer need help, but we worry that our progress in protecting them will recede, like the waves.

The president revoked an Obama-era order aimed at protecting and restoring ocean and coastal health

Waianapanapa State Park in Hawaii. On June 19 — during National Ocean Month — President Donald Trump revoked
Waianapanapa State Park in Hawaii. On June 19 — during National Ocean Month — President Donald Trump revoked Obama-era protections for U.S. oceans, coastlines and Great Lakes waters.

n proclaiming June National Ocean Month, President Donald Trump called on the nation to “reflect on the value and importance of oceans” and “celebrate this immense natural resource.”

But this week, in the midst of that celebration, he signed an executive order to revoke Obama-era protections for U.S. oceans, coastlines and Great Lakes waters. Trump’s directive focuses on energy extraction, fishing, trade and national security, further highlighting that he believes that the greatest value of federal lands and waters lies in the commodities that can be harvested from them.

“Ocean industries employ millions of Americans and support a strong national economy,” reads the order, which Trump signed Tuesday. “Domestic energy production from Federal waters strengthens the Nation’s security and reduces reliance on imported energy.”

Missing from the order are words like “conservation,” “stewardship” and “climate change,” as well as any mention of numerous other threats facing the world’s oceans, including plastic pollution, coral bleaching and acidification.

Signed in 2010 in the wake of the deadly Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explosion and oil spill, Barack Obama’s executive order established a federal policy for protecting, maintaining and restoring ocean health and biodiversity.

“America’s stewardship of the ocean, our coasts, and the Great Lakes is intrinsically linked to environmental sustainability, human health and well-being, national prosperity, adaptation to climate and other environmental changes, social justice, international diplomacy, and national and homeland security,” the Obama order states.

While the fishing and offshore energy industries celebrated Trump’s rollback, environmental groups and Democratic lawmakers were quick to blast the move.

Jacqueline Savitz, the chief policy officer for the nonprofit group Oceana, said the new order “undercuts important conservation measures needed to support strong coastal economies.”

“Every decision involving the ocean also affects fish, wildlife and water quality with resulting costs or benefits for coastal communities, fisheries and tourism,” she said in a statement. “We need strong national policies to help restore our fisheries and protect our oceans.”

In a Twitter post, Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) called Trump’s declaration of National Ocean Month “a nice sheen” on an ocean policy that could lead to another massive oil spill.

During National Ocean Month in 2017, Trump announced plans to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accord, signed by nearly 200 countries in an effort to help prevent global temperatures from increasing by 2 degrees Celsius, the magic number scientists say the world must stay below to prevent the worst effects of climate change.

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Friday, June 22, 2018

Garnier Becomes First Mass Market Skin Care Brand to Achieve Cradle to Cradle Certification/RNN

Setting a fast track to improved sustainability rests, many times, on setting aggressive goals.  We believe Corporate America is helping lead the way on this as we see here:

L’Oréal USA announced that five products in its Garnier SkinActive line achieved Cradle to Cradle Certified™ SILVER recognition. The product line, manufactured at L’Oréal USA’s facility in Franklin, New Jersey, earned this certification based on an evaluation of material health, material reutilization, renewable energy and carbon management, water stewardship and social fairness practices. Garnier is the first mass market skin care brand to receive this certification for its products and is also one of the few skin care brands to have multiple products certified in a portfolio. Garnier, a skin care, hair care and hair color brand, joins Biolage and Kiehl’s as the third L’Oréal USA brand to achieve Cradle to Cradle certification for a selection of its products.

The announcement was made during this year’s Sustainable Brands conference in Vancouver, B.C. in conjunction with the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute and MBDC, the creators of the Cradle to Cradle® Design Framework and assessors of L’Oréal products. The certifications are the result of L’Oréal USA’s global commitment to innovate, produce and develop sustainably through its global sustainability program, Sharing Beauty With All.  

“The Cradle to Cradle certification is a multi-attribute certification that mirrors L’Oréal USA’s holistic approach to sustainable product development,” said Danielle Azoulay, Head of CSR & Sustainability for L’Oréal USA. “We know our consumers value sustainability and to us that means demonstrating sustainability leadership across the value chain, from formulation to manufacturing to renewable resources to social fairness. We are thrilled that Garnier is the third brand in our portfolio to achieve this major milestone and look forward to continuing to integrate this best-in-class certification across L’Oréal USA’s products.”

Cradle to Cradle Certified products are awarded at five levels (BASIC, BRONZE, SILVER, GOLD, and PLATINUM), with each level imposing a more rigorous set of requirements. The lowest score in any quality category establishes the product’s overall score. All five Garnier SkinActive products achieved Cradle to Cradle Certified™ SILVER, with four products reaching PLATINUM for the Material Health attribute and all products achieving GOLD for Material Reutilization. Certified products are required to show continuous improvement every two years.

The newly certified products include:

Garnier SkinActive Deep Pore Facial Cleanser with Green Tea;
Garnier SkinActive Refreshing Facial Cleanser with Aloe Juice;
Garnier SkinActive Soothing Cleansing Milk with Rose Water;
Garnier SkinActive Deep Pore Exfoliating Face Scrub with Green Tea; and
Garnier SkinActive Refreshing Cream Cleanser with Aloe Juice.

All of the newly certified Garnier products were produced in L’Oréal USA’s Franklin, New Jersey facility which is powered with 100 percent renewable electricity and features optimized vessel cleaning systems that have led to a reduction in water consumption. Sustainable packaging was a priority for all of the newly certified products, the packaging for Garnier’s SkinActive Deep Pore Exfoliating Face Scrub with Green Tea is made from 50 percent PCR (post-consumer recycled) plastic while the packaging of all three of Garnier’s certified cleansers are made from 30 percent PCR plastic.

“L’Oréal continues to set an incredible example for how the beauty industry can make our world a better place,” said William McDonough, co-founder of MBDC, the originators of the Cradle to Cradle Certified program and assessors of the certified Garnier products. “Their commitment to design, develop and take to market Cradle to Cradle Certified products not only empowers customers to choose products that are good for the world, but also encourages other businesses to follow suit. L’Oréal is, in effect, inviting their industry to join them in collaborative advantage as they seek the highest standard.”

“As the largest beauty company in the world, L’Oréal has taken the responsibility of sustainability seriously, with multiple products from brands across its portfolio achieving Cradle to Cradle certifications,” said Lewis Perkins, President of the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute, which administers the Cradle to Cradle Certified Products Program. “By using the Cradle to Cradle Certified product standard as a framework for the continuous improvement of the material health and impact of its products, L’Oréal is leading the beauty industry towards greater transparency and trust with its consumers.”

Through Sharing Beauty With All, L’Oréal USA is committed to reducing environmental impacts throughout the product lifecycle. To further these efforts, the company has developed its Sustainable Product Optimization Tool (SPOT) to improve the environmental and social profile of its products. SPOT focuses on five elements of product sustainability: packaging, formula, ingredient sourcing, manufacturing and social benefit. In 2017, L’Oréal integrated SPOT into the design and launch process of its entire brand portfolio.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Just In Time For Summer “Humbrella” A Thin-Film Solar Powered Umbrella/RNN

As always we continue to profile new technology.

Hanergy, a pioneering multinational clean energy company, announced the launch of its new product “Humbrella,” a thin-film solar powered umbrella providing clean, free and consistent electricity to people in energy-scarce areas of the world.
At the launch of its “Lighting Africa” CSR project, Hanergy announced it would donate the first batch of a million RMB (US$160,000) solar-powered umbrellas, or “Humbrellas”, to regions of Africa where electricity shortages routinely prevent children from having enough time for study. With Humbrella, children in these regions will be able to enjoy more high-quality reading time.
“Hanergy has been striving to leverage our worldleading thin-film technology to provide accessible and clean energy to the world,” said Hanergy CEO Li Hejun. “Humbrella is the latest addition to our growing roster of mobile energy solutions. With our unique technological strength and R&D commitment, we are confident that our products can transform many industries to make them much more green and efficient.”
The Humbrella integrates functions including off-grid power supply, electricity storage, night lighting, and terminal charging. It can collect sunshine and convert it into electricity and save up to 40000mAh of power, enough for 10 hours of quality night reading time. In addition to lighting, the Humbrella can charge several mobile phones or small appliances like electric mosquito repellent via 4 USB ports built into the handle of the umbrella. The Humbrella has a diameter of 2.7 meters and weighs only 8.8 kilograms due to Hanergy’s amazingly light and flexible thin film solar panels.
Hanergy’s thin film technology currently holds several world records. In February 2018, Hanergy’s US-based subsidiary Alta Devices’ newest solar production module was rated by German solar energy testing laboratory Fraunhofer ISE CalLab PV Modules as the highest efficiency single-junction solar module ever produced in the world with 25.1% conversion efficiency. In the same month, another German testing laboratory, TÜV Rheinland, rated Hanergy’s Germany-based subsidiary Solibro’s double glass copper indium gallium selenium (CIGS) solar module as the most efficient glass substrate CIGS module in the world, with a record 18.72% aperture area efficiency.
With its worldleading technology, Hanergy is helping to transform the construction and transportation industries. The company recently unveiled its next-generation Hantile, an upgrade to the company’s revolutionary roofing solution combining thin-film solar panels with traditional roof tiles. Hanergy has pioneered the use of ultra-white tempered glass, which features a transmittance level of 91.5%, and possesses extreme durability and ability to withstand heavy impacts. The single glass Hantile is also highly wind resistant and able to generate power at temperatures ranging from -40 to 85 degrees Celsius, and humidity higher than 85%. The Hantile has a life cycle of up to 30 years, longer than traditional roof tiles.
In terms of applications in the transportation industry, other than developing its own solar vehicles, Hanergy’s US subsidiary Alta Devices recently cooperated with German car maker Audi to integrate solar cells into panoramic glass automobile roofs. Hanergy has also cooperated with major bike sharing companies, including Mobike, 99 Bicycle and MTBike to integrate thin-film solar panels into the bodies of more than 15 million bicycles over the next three years.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Hemp Makes Great Plastic, So Why Isn’t Hemp Plastic Everywhere?/For Today's Show

In April we focused, as did Earth Day celebrations, on the challenge of reducing and eliminating the growing mountains of plastic littering our landscape.  Here we pick up that theme and look at biodegradable alternatives that can be made affordably and replace much of what we are using today.

You will hear more on this today at 1p as we welcome writer, Kit O'Connell.  

 plastic pollution
Researchers found 38 million pieces of plastic waste on one uninhabited island in the South Pacific. That’s just one island.

Plastic is an inescapable part of our everyday lives, so why is almost all of it still made from polluting, non-renewable petrochemicals?
You may have heard that agricultural hemp, the non-mind-altering cousin of cannabis (commonly known as marijuana), has dozens of potential uses from clothing to paper.
Since virtually all climate scientists agree that we must replace our dependence on fossil fuels, and given that hemp can even make the soil cleaner, it’s surprising that this miracle crop isn’t in wider use.
When we looked into the topic, we found that hemp is already appearing in some commonplace objects, including cars, and could soon find it’s way into more. But there are also remaining barriers that keep hemp plastics more expensive and less versatile, for now.


Not only are the harmful effects of global warming increasingly clear, conventional plastics linger in the environment and can even enter the food chain to detrimental effect on human and animal health.
In one especially shocking recent example, researchers from the University of Tasmania and the UK’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds found 38 million pieces of plastic waste on Henderson Island, an uninhabited coral island in the South Pacific.
“I’ve travelled to some of the most far-flung islands in the world and regardless of where I’ve gone, in what year, and in what area of the ocean, the story is generally the same: the beaches are littered with evidence of human activity,” Jennifer Lavers, a marine scientist from the University of Tasmania, told The Guardian.
The oceans are in a similar or even worse state, thanks to the risk of microplastics, or tiny fragments of plastic that pollute the waters and are often eaten by marine life. The infamous “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” is actually largely composed of millions of these tiny particles — as much as 1.9 million per square mile — according to a 2014 report from National Geographic.


Some of the earliest plastics were made from cellulose fibers obtained from organic, non-petroleum-based sources.
“Hemp cellulose can be extracted and used to make cellophane, rayon, celluloid and a range of related plastics,” reported Seshata, a writer at Sensi Seeds in 2014. “Hemp is known to contain around 65-70% cellulose, and is considered a good source (wood contains around 40%, flax 65-75%, and cotton up to 90%) that has particular promise due to its relative sustainability and low environmental impact.”
While 100% hemp-based plastic is still a rarity, some “composite bioplastics” — plastics made from a combination of hemp and other plant sources — are already in use. Thanks to their high strength and rigidity, these plastics are currently used in the construction of cars, boats, and even musical instruments.
could hemp be used for plastic bottles
Many plastic products are made from polymer resins, including polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, found in everyday products like plastic bottles. While advocates hope to someday see 100% hemp-based plastic bottles on supermarket shelves, the technology just isn’t ready for prime time.
Companies like Coca-Cola have experimented with 100% plant-based bottles, but commercially available products are made from no more than 30% plant-based materials, while the remainder is made from traditional fossil fuel sources.
The good news is that many corporations are investing heavily in researching replacements to traditional PET. It’s likely the first company to produce a viable commercial product could stand to earn millions.
Unfortunately, even plastic that’s deliberately designed to be biodegradable can still be a source of pollution. Almost nothing biodegrades in a landfill, and hemp microplastics could still cause problems when introduced to the oceans. Biodegradable plastics need to be sent to commercial composting facilities for efficient disposal, and these facilities aren’t available to everyone. In addition to creating better alternatives to plastic, we’ll still to create more responsible attitudes toward disposable products.


While fossil fuel costs are kept low with subsidies, hemp products for the most part remain costly luxury items. While some hemp is grown in the United States under pilot programs legalized by the 2014 Farm Bill, most is still imported from other countries.
Though hemp requires fewer pesticides and has a smaller environmental footprint than many other crops, growing and harvesting it remains labor intensive. Another drawback is that hemp requires “significant fertiliser in some soils, and also has relatively high water requirements,” as noted by Seshata.
However, hemp prices would almost undoubtedly come down, and technology improve, if we ended the war on drugs — particularly the many restrictions on legally growing hemp and cannabis.
could hemp plastic be used for legos
One of the most provocative examples of hemp’s potential plastic future could come from LEGOs, the ubiquitous building block toy. which is promising to phase out fossil-fuel based resin by 2030.
“Hemp might just be the cost effective, environmentally sustainable alternative material that LEGO is looking for,” speculated Emily Gray Brosious in a February 2016 investigation from the Sun Times.
Whether or not we’re ever able to build a spaceship from hemp bricks, the full promise of hemp plastic remains tantalizingly close, but just out of reach.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Suspected bee-killing pesticide found in honey samples

Suspected bee-killing pesticide found in honey samples

WASHINGTON — When researchers collected honey samples from around the world, they found that three-quarters of them had a common type of pesticide suspected of playing a role in the decline of bees. Even honey from the island paradise of Tahiti had the chemical.

That demonstrates how pervasive a problem the much-debated pesticide is for honeybees, said authors of a study published Thursday in the journal Science. They said it is not a health problem for people because levels were far below governments’ thresholds on what’s safe to eat.

“What this shows is the magnitude of the contamination,” said study lead author Edward Mitchell, a biology professor at the University of Neuchatel in Switzerland, adding that there are “relatively few places where we did not find any.”

Over the past few years, several studies — in the lab and the field — link insecticides called neonicotinoids, or neonics, to reduced and weakened honeybee hives, although pesticide makers dispute those studies. Neonics work by attacking an insect’s central nervous system.

Bees and other pollinators have been on the decline for more than a decade and experts blame a combination of factors: neonics, parasites, disease, climate change and lack of a diverse food supply. Honeybees don’t just make honey; about one-third of the human diet comes from plants that are pollinated by the insects. Bees pick up the pesticide when they feed on fields grown from treated seeds.

As part of a citizen science project, the Swiss researchers asked other experts, friends and relatives to ship them honey samples. More than 300 samples arrived and researchers tested 198 of them for five of the most common types of neonics.
Overall, 75 percent of the samples had at least one neonic, 45 percent had two or more and 10 percent had four or more.
Results varied by region. In North America, 86 percent of samples had the pesticide; Asia, 80 percent; Europe, where there’s a partial ban, 79 percent; Africa, 73 percent; the Australian region, 71 percent; and South America, 57 percent.

The study found that nearly half of the honey samples exceeded a level of the pesticide that some previous research said weakens bees, but the pesticide makers say otherwise. An outside expert, University of Nebraska’s Judy Wu-Smart, said the study used too few honey samples to make the broad conclusions the researchers did.

Ann Bryan, spokeswoman for Syngenta, which makes the neonic thiamethoxam, said the amount of the pesticide found in honey samples “are 50 times lower than what could cause possible effects on bees.”

Jeffrey Donald, a spokesman for Bayer Crop Science, which makes the neonic clothianidinsaid, said the study “perpetuates the myth that exposure to low levels of neonicotinoids implies risk, even though there is no compelling scientific evidence to support this conclusion.”

The study authors likened neonics to DDT, the pesticide in the 1960s linked to declines in bald eagles and other birds. They said neonics are dangerous to all sorts of insects, even ladybugs. University of Illinois bee expert Sydney Cameron and other scientists said those comparisons aren’t right because neonics don’t stay in an animal’s system like DDT did and are applied to seeds and not sprayed in mass quantities.

“This is an important paper if for no other reason that it will attract a great deal of attention to the mounting problem of worldwide dependence on agrochemicals, the side effects of which we know relatively little,” Cameron said in an email. She wasn’t part of the study.
One side benefit of collecting honey is that researchers could sample some. Mitchell’s favorite is a dark and bitter honey from Africa. He called the honey fantastic, but added, “I couldn’t eat it all the time. It was just too strong.”

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Power Companies’ Mistakes Can Cost Billions. Who Should Pay?/NY Times

More reasons why we should continue to invest heavily in transforming how we make and deliver power.

Utilities say they must be shielded from liability or the electric grid will suffer. Critics say that puts the burden on ratepayers, not investors.

FALLBROOK, Calif. — After flames rolled over the hills north of San Diego and engulfed vineyards, avocado groves and neighborhoods, hundreds in this area were left with only the charred remains of homes and businesses. For many, that moment in 2007 was the beginning of a long struggle to rebuild — if they did at all — and recover their financial losses.
And they had a villain in mind: San Diego Gas and Electric, whose fallen power poles had been found partly responsible. “It wasn’t campers; it wasn’t somebody throwing a match,” said Al Ransom, a 79-year-old retired Marine who sued the utility over losses that reached into the millions. “It was the utility. That was established.”
Now the question is whether an investor-owned utility’s customers — not its shareholders — should pay for the harm in such cases. A bill before the California Legislature would give utilities the ability to pass on the costs from legal settlements to ratepayers, even if the utilities were responsible for the fire.
Al Ransom sued San Diego Gas and Electric after the utility’s fallen power poles were found partly to blame for a 2007 fire. He and his wife, Cathie, used their retirement savings to restore the business they ran on their property.CreditMatchull Summers for The New York Times

Last year alone, wildfires in the state killed dozens of people, destroyed thousands of homes and businesses and damaged tens of thousands of other properties — losses estimated at $12 billion in all. Neglected maintenance around power lines belonging to the state’s biggest utility, Pacific Gas and Electric, has been blamed for some of the fires.

But critics assert that power providers across the nation want ratepayers to bear the financial burden when things go wrong, whether the cause is a natural disaster, a utility’s negligence or even poor decision-making by executives — in essence, that like crucial financial firms, they are too big to fail.
“Every other business in America, if they make bad decisions, they go out of business,” said Steve Campora, a lawyer for some of the victims of California fires over the past 10 years. “For some reason, there’s this notion that the utilities ought to be propped up.”

New vegetation has emerged in a recently burned area in northern San Diego County, near the origin of a major fire in December.CreditMatchull Summers for The New York Times

In North Carolina, Duke Energy has been seeking regulatory approval for more than $400 million in additional payments from its customers, in part to clean up leaking coal-ash basins at its power plants across the state.
■ South Carolina Electric and Gas and related utilities canceled the V.C. Summer nuclear plant last year after they ran up $9 billion in expenses for which consumers continue to foot the bill.
■ Florida Power and Light, Duke Energy, Gulf Power and TECO Energy lost $6.5 billion over a 15-year period in hedging the price of natural gas, betting that it would rise. Prices fell, and Florida consumers paid for the misjudgment.
“They just kept doing it and kept losing,” said Charles Rehwinkel, deputy public counsel for the Florida Legislature. “There was a seismic change in the price of natural gas and they just kept losing money.”

Just as the California Legislature is considering for its utilities, Mr. Rehwinkel said Florida allowed power companies to recover their costs on the hedging as long as they developed a plan for the program, even if it was flawed and failed. And with the ability to charge customers, he said, the utilities just kept spending money.
“Once they start it, they can’t stop,” Mr. Rehwinkel said. “It’s more addictive than crack.”
Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog, a nonprofit advocacy organization in Los Angeles, said the companies have consistently sought to use their customers to fund their ambitions and failures while rewarding investors — even after regulators have found the utility at fault. “They socialize the risk and privatize the profits,” he said...."


Thursday, June 14, 2018

Is There An Algorithm to End World Hunger?/Food Tank

Great post by our friends at Food Tank.   There's a link for more.

In today’s digital world, researchers and scientists collect massive amounts of data about global systems. These groundbreaking tools and statistical methods for collecting, organizing, and analyzing information, commonlyreferred to as Big Data, are transforming almost every aspect of daily life—from banking to public transportation to your social media profile. Big Data's ability to measure soil chemistry, germination rates, harvest indicators, and more has the potential to usher in a new era in innovative farming; transforming not only how we produce, but also how we consume food. 

In partnership with the CGIAR Platform for Big Data in Agriculture, Food Tank is introducing a new series titled "Agricultural Intelligence" that will explore the ways in which Big Data is transforming research on farms and food production.

Over the last 50 years, CGIAR (formerly the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research) led the global effort to harness research in support of food security in a dynamic, unpredictable world. The Platform is a major marker in the organization's mission to conserve nature, reduce poverty, and end hunger. This exciting partnership will dive into the most challenging issues facing the global food system today through exclusive interviews, profiles, and in-depth articles on the CGIAR Platform.

Read and share the first installment in the series, "Is There an Algorithm to End World Hunger?" by CLICKING HERE.

What topics related to Big Data and agriculture inspire you? Please email me to share them with us!

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

How Batteries Will Change the Power Business/Barron's

For years we've been reporting on the strategic growth and important of energy storage systems.  Here's a deep dive and great insight on the changing landscape of power.
STERLING, MASS.—Until recently, this tidy, quiet town in central Massachusetts was best known to outsiders for its eight-acre corn maze out by Davis Farmland, and for a little statue near the corner of Main and Park immortalizing the lamb that is said to have followed young Mary Sawyer to school one day in 1812, inspiring a well-known poem. Lately, however, Sterling welcomes visitors from far away who don’t come for outdoor fun or nursery rhymes.
“As soon as it came on-line, they started rolling in—Japan, Switzerland, Sweden, Brazil, Colombia—13 different countries so far,” says Darren Borge, operations supervisor at the town’s light department. The visitors come to peek inside a single shipping container placed in late 2016 at the power substation on Chocksett Road. There, twin rows of what look like post office boxes pack lithium-ion batteries that together can hold two megawatts of power. That’s enough to make Sterling, population 8,000, the country’s per capita energy-storage leader—and a glimpse of the future of the electricity business.
How Batteries Will Change the Power Business
High-power batteries have already infiltrated the chain-saw aisle at Home Depot and are poised to disrupt the car industry in the decades ahead. Now, they are quickly multiplying across the U.S. power grid. In Sterling, those two megawatts are enough to provide savings and resiliency—to smooth out power demand and avoid peak charges, and in the event of an outage, run the nearby police department and fire dispatch for more than a week.
Last year, the nation installed half a gigawatt of energy storage—equal to 250 Sterlings. Over the next eight years, the country will add more than 35 gigawatts of storage, or 17,500 Sterlings, predicts the Energy Storage Association, a Washington, D.C., industry group. That’s enough to save $4 billion in yearly operating costs. Stephen Byrd, a utility analyst for Morgan Stanley, calls that storage forecast credible. He reckons the U.S. storage market will eventually be worth at least $20 billion, and $35 billion under more bullish assumptions.
That’s excellent news for many stakeholders. Consumers stand to save on power and see fewer disruptions. Towns can cut pollution and add jobs. Some utilities will enjoy lucrative growth opportunities by, for example, combining renewable power with storage, while others could be left behind, generating costly coal and nuclear power while prices fall around them. Right now, stock valuations across the utility sector aren’t especially differentiated, providing an opportunity for investors...."

Monday, June 11, 2018

CVS Health Releases 11th Annual Corporate Social Responsibility Report/RNN

Good follow up to an interview we did with their sustainability director.

CVS Health (NYSE: CVS)  released its 11th annual Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Report, detailing its latest efforts to shape the future of health care, reduce environmental impacts and exemplify corporate leadership in fulfilling the company’s purpose of helping people on their path to better health.
 Among the company’s key CSR initiatives in 2017 were an enterprise response to combatting the opioid crisis, the development of a carbon emissions reduction target in line with climate science, and a rapid and robust response to a series of natural disasters that impacted CVS Health operations, colleagues and communities. The company also made new commitments to increase access to health care for veterans and military families, as well as to address the nation’s skills gap through its Registered Apprenticeship program. To further align enterprise goals and values with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, CVS Health became the first U.S. pharmacy chain to join the United Nations Global Compact, the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative.
“At CVS Health, we serve as the front door to health care – touching the lives of one in three Americans, with a presence in thousands of communities across the country. We are playing an active role in providing more affordable, accessible, and effective care, and our corporate social responsibility strategy supports these efforts,” said Larry Merlo, President and Chief Executive Officer for CVS Health. “Looking ahead, we will continue to align our CSR goals with CVS Health’s leading position at the heart of health care delivery in the United States.”
CVS Health’s CSR framework, Prescription for a Better World, spans efforts across three strategic pillars: Health in Action, Planet in Balance and Leader in Growth. Within each pillar, the company has established goals and measurable, time-bound targets to ensure accountability. The company also reports on progress made against each target in this year’s Report.
“In 2017, we established new leadership positions across a range of CSR issues. We were thoughtful and determined in how we generated impact by leveraging our size, scale and expertise,” said Eileen Howard Boone, Senior Vice President, Corporate Social Responsibility and Philanthropy. “Collaboration with our many internal and external partners drove us forward. Their partnership and support will continue to be central to the advancement of our CSR strategy.”
Notable accomplishments in 2017 include:
Health in Action
  • An enhanced utilization management program to ensure that opioids are being prescribed and used appropriately, consistent with guidelines set by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Launch of in-store medication disposal units to safely collect medication that could otherwise be diverted, misused or abused
  • Significant progress against 2020 targets to help deliver the first tobacco-free generation, including 4.4 million youth reached with tobacco-free messaging and 128 new tobacco-free educational institutions
  • An expanded partnership between MinuteClinic and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to provide access to affordable health services for more than 120,000 veterans
  • Delivery of more than $6.4 million in services through the Project Health free health screening campaign, which since 2006, has resulted in more than $122 million in services provided
Planet in Balance
  • Submission of a science-based emissions reduction target for approval from the Science Based Targets initiative
  • The removal of chemicals of consumer concern across nearly 600 store brand beauty and personal care products
  • Progress toward the company’s 2020 target of sustainably sourced palm oil in all store brand products containing this ingredient
  • The diversion of 48 percent of company-generated waste to recycling and reuse through ongoing, data-driven improvement projects
Leader in Growth
  • Record spending with diverse and women-owned suppliers, and the establishment of new spending targets for 2020
  • Inclusion on DiversityInc’s Top 50 Companies for Diversity list for the first time, a result of a greater focus on diverse supplier spending and management-level recruitment
  • The opening of a Talent Connect Center in Fort Bragg, NC to connect service members and their spouses with career training and employment opportunities as they transition from military to civilian life
CVS Health’s 2017 CSR Report was developed in accordance with the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Sustainability Reporting Standards, a global framework widely used by organizations to report on CSR and sustainability performance. The company completed a materiality assessment in 2017 and focused its reporting on topics that reflect its most significant economic, environmental, and social impacts, or that substantively influence the assessments and decisions of stakeholders.
The Report is available online at