Monday, December 15, 2008

New Report on Corporate GHG Policy

A report issued last week compared 63 well-known companies for the efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, with some surprising results. Apple’s bad rating surprised me, for example. Few companies seem to be taking it seriously, though there are commendable and already well-known efforts from companies like WalMart.

Companies were scored based upon their performance in five areas: board of director oversight; management execution; public disclosure; emissions accounting; and strategic planning and performance. The detailed criteria are quite complicated, and the authors warn against comparing scores of companies in different sectors. Winners and losers in some of the sectors studied are as follows (all scores being out of 100):

· IBM with 79 vs. Apple with 28
· Tesco with 78 vs. CVS with 12
· Intel with 72 vs. Texas Instruments with 28
· Nike with 71 vs. Abercrombie and Fitch with 0
· Johnson and Johnson with 71 vs. Roche with 49
· WalMart with 69 vs. Bed Bath & Beyond with 10
· Coca-Cola with 65 vs. Anheuser Busch with 38
· L’Oreal with 54 vs. Estee lauder with 24
· Marriott with 53 vs. Las Vegas Sands with 7
· Starbucks with 52 vs. Burger King with 6

The report was commissioned by Ceres from RiskMetrics Group. For more information click here where you can also download the full 316-page report.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

USPS Should Embrace Electric Vehicles.

As posted before, the United States Postal Service has been required to use so called Flex-Fuel vehicles even in places where E85 is not available. There is an interesting report on various trials of alternative-fuel vehicles available on the web at

On the face of it, local mail delivery is an ideal application for electric vehicles. The USPS calls the current vehicles LLVs or Long Life Vehicles. They average just 16 miles per day and do about 10 miles to the gallon. True to their name, the average age is about 16 years, but as there are 140,000 of them this still implies that they get replaced at about 9,000 a year. Also, since the fleet comprises only a few different vehicle types, and since they typically get through a couple of engines and transmissions during their lives, a mass retrofit might be feasible.

Electric vehicles seem well suited to a number of local delivery jobs, and also maintenance vans which may do few miles and spend most of their lives waiting at worksites. In London I noticed that stores like Tesco used electric delivery vehicles, which are readily available in Europe.

The USPS last tested pure electric vehicles, supplied by Ford, in 2001. It is not clear why they did not expand the program, as the vehicles seem to have performed well. They said they were unsure of long-term battery viability, but that surely is changed by the availability of lithium ion technology.

So, how about it, USPS?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Flex-Fuel Scandal

The Washington Post has an article ( exposing the waste inherent in the Federal Government’s usage of alternative fuel vehicles. These vehicles can in theory run either on regular gas or on an 85% ethanol blend known as E85. Years ago GM had obtained concessions on the CAFE standards in return for producing these vehicles, even though there was nothing to require owners to use E85. Indeed, for many years GM did not even identify the fact that the vehicle was able to use E85, the only way an owner would know being to look up the VIN number somewhere. And of course, E85 is not available everywhere.

To make matters worse, the Flex-Fuel vehicles are invariably big V8s like the Cadillac Escalade.
Leaving aside the doubtful benefit of using corn-based ethanol anyway, this meant that most Flex-Fuel vehicles are run mostly on gasoline and the net effect on greenhouse gas emissions is positive rather than negative.

The Post article reveals that even in the government’s own program, many such vehicles are in areas where they don’t have access to E85 and that 92% of them are run on gasoline. Furthermore, the vehicles could have been replaced by more economical conventional vehicles.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Poznan: Why Meet Now?

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) meets today in Poznan to try to hammer out a new global climate change pact to replace the Kyoto Treaty, which expires in 2012. Over the next 12 days, some 10,000 representatives will negotiate a new pact aimed at cutting greenhouse gas emissions to be signed next year in Copenhagen.

My question is: would it not have been better to have waited a couple of months so that the U.S. could be seriously represented by an administration that actually cares?