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Posts Tagged ‘Environmental Defense Fund’

This post first appeared on Grist.

Eric Pooley came to San Francisco last Tuesday to talk about his new book, The Climate War, at the offices of the Environmental Defense Fund.

The book, subtitled “True Believers, Power Brokers and the Fight to Save the Earth,” is a riveting tale of the battle to pass climate change legislation in the United States. Pooley, deputy editor of Bloomberg BusinessWeek and the former editor of Fortune magazine, embedded himself with key combatants in the climate war, including Fred Krupp, EDF’s president. (Read a review by Grist’s David Roberts here.)

It is, of course, a book without an ending as efforts to enact a cap on greenhouse gas emissions start to resemble a not-so-funny legislative version of Bill Murray’s “Groundhog Day.”

The timing of Pooley’s Tuesday talk was appropriate, as that day a new front in the climate war opened up on the West Coast when an initiative to suspend California’s landmark global warming law qualified for the Nov. 2 ballot.

The Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, popularly known by its legislative moniker, AB 32, requires California to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. One of the options to do that is to implement a statewide cap-and-trade market to limit emissions by carbon polluters such as oil refiners.

Two Texas oil companies, Valero and Tesoro, are largely funding the anti-AB 32 ballot measure, which the California secretary of state in a bit of cosmic irony has designated Proposition 23 — a reversal of 32, get it?

Prop 23 would put AB 32 on hold until the unemployment rate falls to 5.5 percent for four straight quarters, which is as likely in California as the legislature delivering the state budget on time four years in a row.

It promises to be an epic battle of the Old Economy vs. the New Economy — Silicon Valley green tech startups, venture capitalists, and big corporations with a stake in the nascent renewable energy economy versus the old industrial giants with the most to lose from the new green order.

“If you look at investment in clean energy, China is now investing $9 billion a month with centralized control of the energy economy the likes of which we can’t equal,” Pooley told EDFers gathered on the 28th floor of a downtown San Francisco tower. “A price on carbon would change the rules of the road and take capital off the sidelines and put it to work building clean energy infrastructure and jobs here in this country. It could happen in California first as so many things have happened in California first.”

“But I really worry about this proposition,” he added. “It’s going to be tough to defeat.”

Pooley noted that the passage of AB 32 in 2006 helped put pressure on the federal government and an administration resolutely opposed to cap and trade. Suspension of AB 32 would take away a big playing card in the climate change poker game.

While the environment may be as Californian as the beach, redwood trees, and plastic surgery, the fight over Prop 23 makes environmentalists nervous, especially in a state with a sky-high unemployment rate.

Pooley asked Derek Walker, director of EDF’s California Climate Initiative, to handicap the electoral odds.

“When I’m asked that question, I would have said a year ago there’s no chance we’ll have a Republican senator from Massachusetts anytime soon,” Walker said. “But I think that all other things being equal, Californians have a very strong ethic for conservation and if there’s enough evidence of the green economy growing in California there’s a compelling case.”

As Pooley noted, “Nobody has done more than California to step up on this issue. There’s never going to be a perfect moment to do this. As if we all can wait for the golden day when all is in order and embrace the future. History does not work that way. Progress does not work that way. We have to rise up to meet the future or we’ll cede it to somebody else.”

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2009 CC Fellow Group Shot

photo: EDF

In my new Green State column on Grist, I catch up with the Climate Corps, a group of green MBA students sponsored by the Environmental Defense Fund. The Climate Corps recently finished 10-week internships with Fortune 500 companies, saving them an estimated $54 million through energy efficiency measures the students identified:

Back in May I wrote about the Environmental Defense Fund’s (EDF) Climate Corps, a cadre of 26 MBA students who were then prepping for summer internships at Fortune 500 companies. Their mission was to green up corporate operations to save money and cut carbon emissions.

With winter on the way and school back in session, I checked in to see how successful the Climate Corps was at combining the students’ financial smarts, technological know-how—half are engineers by training—and environmental ethic.

Pretty successful, it turns out. According to EDF, the interns identified energy efficiency measures that will collectively save an estimated $54 million at 22 companies (and one university), including eBay, Dell and Sony Pictures Entertainment. That translates into 100,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases avoided a year with an annual energy savings of 160 million kilowatt hours.

A couple of caveats are in order. Energy efficiency programs were already under way at many of the companies. And whether the projected $54 million in savings will actually be realized won’t be known until the energy efficiency efforts are completed—actual results may vary.

Still, anything close to $54 million is quite a return on investment, given that the companies altogether spent only $260,000 on intern salaries during the 10-week program.

But the long-term payoff is likely to be the emergence of a new corporate class- – the green financial engineer—and future CEOs—who reflexively view environmental performance as a bottom-line concern.

You can read the rest of the column here.

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