The Daily Grist: March 12

Gore Blasts American Companies for Lagging on Green Tech

American companies spend too much time fighting environmental regulations and too little time researching and developing the next generation of green technologies,
said former vice president and 2000 popular-vote winner Al Gore in a speech to Stanford University business students yesterday. Gore cited a recent deal wherein Ford Motor Co. purchased hybrid-engine technology from Toyota, having fallen too far behind in R&D to catch up on its own. "Unless they change, that story is going to happen over and over and over again," said Gore. "Detroit should be embarrassed." He ended his speech with a call to action: "We're at a turning point where deciding to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem is crucial."

The Emissionary Position
Canada Considers Adopting California Vehicle Emissions Regulations

If automakers do not agree to improve the fuel efficiency of cars sold in Canada by 25 percent by 2010,
the country will consider adopting California's new law curbing carbon-dioxide emissions from automobiles, said Canada's environment minister in a speech yesterday. Canada, unlike the U.S., signed the Kyoto Protocol in 2002, committing itself to strict targets on greenhouse gases. Automakers have complained that the Canadian targets are impractical, since they would bifurcate the North American market; in response, Canada is looking for state partners to "create a critical mass in the integrated North American market," Environment Minister David Anderson said. Due to its history of smog problems, California is the only U.S. state allowed to write its own air-quality standards; other states are permitted to adopt California's rules if they choose, and several northeastern states have. Automakers have said they will sue California to stop its CO2 law from going into effect.

Water Privatization Sweeps World Despite Problems

Water will be to the 21st century what oil was to the 20th, predicted Fortune Magazine in May 2000, and it is shaping up to be a prescient claim.
Multinational corporations now run the water systems that provide for 7 percent of the world's population, with analysts expecting that number to rise to 17 percent by 2015. Private water management is a $200 billion business, and if the World Bank -- which aggressively promotes water privatization -- is to be believed, it will be a $1 trillion business by 2021. This would be good news for the fifth of the world's population that lacks access to clean water if there were evidence that corporations provided better or cheaper service than governments, but such evidence is conspicuously lacking. Too often, privatization leads to a drop in water quality and a rise in prices, sometimes fueling citizen protest. To insulate themselves from complaints, many water corporations lobby heavily for immunity from lawsuits and legislation that would prevent municipalities from backing out of contracts, no matter how miserable the results.

Do Good
Call for a Greener Federal Budget

The Bush administration's budget proposal for 2005 puts environmental spending under the axe. Funding for the U.S. EPA would be cut by some 7 percent, money directed at endangered-species recovery efforts would be reduced by more than $9 million, funds for water-quality programs would be slashed by some 30 percent, and ... well, you get the idea. Tell the House and Senate budget committees to keep your greenbacks green and oppose Bush's budget. do good:
Speak out against a budget that would undermine environmental protection.

The Longline of the Law
Government Bans Longline Swordfishing to Protect Turtles

In an effort to protect endangered sea turtles,
the U.S. government has banned California's swordfish fleet from operating in a large swath of the Pacific Ocean. The ban -- announced yesterday by the National Marine Fisheries Service -- applies only to "longline" fishing, in which large baited hooks are strung up to 50 miles off the stern of boats. The air-breathing turtles -- in addition to seabirds, sharks, and marlin -- are inadvertently caught on the hooks and dragged underwater until they drown; even when they are caught and released alive, they frequently die from injuries sustained when hooks are embedded in their flesh. The same fleet was banned from the Hawaiian Islands several years ago; they will return there next year, under regulations requiring them to use experimental new gear designed to avoid snagging turtles. The new ban goes into effect on April 12.

For more environmental news and humor go to Grist Magazine.

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