May 4 – 8, 2015

Coal has a bad week

Bank of America declared its intention to cut off its financing for coal extraction projects, the company announced at its shareholder meeting Wednesday. Meanwhile, Norway’s sovereign fund has nearly halved its exposure to thermal coal since the beginning of the year, only retaining shares in companies where mining is one of several business areas. Meanwhile, in the the United States, the first peer-reviewed study has found that Obama’s proposed curbs on coal-burning power plants could prevent as many as 3,500 premature deaths per year.


Electric vehicle battery costs “rapidly falling” says study

Swedish researchers from the Stockholm Environment Institute looked at more than 80 different cost estimate reports between 2007 and 2014 to find out how much the cost of lithium-ion battery packs – the kind used in EVs – has declined. Cost estimates from that period showed a decline of about 14 per cent annually, from over $1,000 (U.S.) per kilowatt-hour to $410. The cost for market-leading battery-electric vehicle manufacturers was even lower, at about $300.


Narrower streets could create tons of new housing

Steve Dombek is an activist with an unusual cause. He wants U.S. cities in general — and San Francisco in particular — to adopt narrower streets, along the lines of what you’ll often see in cities that were built before the 19th century. He says it would open up space for much-needed housing in San Francisco, where thriving local economies are being handicapped by an inability for more people to be able to move to the city.


How good is that environmental nonprofit, anyway?

Green groups are facing growing calls to measure and report on how well they do their jobs, says Marc Gunther. No independent organization has made a serious effort to evaluate the performance of environmental organizations. Nor, for that matter, do many environmental nonprofits report publicly on their effectiveness or admit their errors. For anyone who cares about the environment, nascent efforts to improve effectiveness, accountability and transparency — however imperfect — can’t come soon enough.


Radioactive and short on cash to pay for closures

Eighty-two of the 117 U.S. nuclear power plants scattered across the country, including seven in the process of shutting down, don’t have enough cash on hand to close safely, says Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) records. And closing tends to cost more than operators expect. Based on NRC filings, the actual combined cost may be somewhere in the neighborhood of $100 billion (U.S.) – $43 billion more than the current balance of the decommission trust funds.


Analysis busts myth that divestment is a losing proposition

A report from the world’s largest stock market index found that the performance of fossil-free portfolios has been stronger than conventional portfolios since 2010. The benchmark for this analysis is the MSCI ACWI Index, which represents the broad market across 23 developed and 23 emerging countries. That index has returned 62.2 per cent since 2010. After eliminating companies that owned large fossil-fuel reserves, the index returned 69.9 per cent.


Heroes & Zeros: Archer Daniels Midland and Walmart

Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM), one of the world’s largest agricultural processors and food ingredient providers, has committed to a “no-deforestation” policy regarding the soy and palm oil it sources. Most companies in the palm oil market have made similar commitments, but ADM is the first to apply this standard to soy throughout its supply chain. Walmart, meanwhile, is facing multiple class-action lawsuits related to wage theft in California and Pennsylvania.

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