Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category
We knew this already but with one bold stroke the Obama administration can now take decisive steps to quell polluting emissions no matter the outcome of the Copenhagen summit or what the Inhofes of the world ignorantly believe: Greenhouse gases are a threat to the environment and public health.
That “endangerment finding” from the Environmental Protection Agency Monday prepares the way for strict regulations to reduce GHG emissions from industrial plants and from the transportation industry.
EPA’s announcement sends a sharp signal to the world that the Obama administration is serious about addressing climate change on both the world stage and within its own borders. It also tells the U.S. Congress that the administration is prepared to contain global warming without congressional action if necessary. It raises the stakes for clean vehicle and cleantech development and also adds another brick in the wall to support rapid congressional approval of comprehensive health care reform.
More importantly the EPA finding goes beyond mere words and underscores a firm break with the policies and inaction of the past decade or so.
I’m reading Spook Country by William Gibson, one of my faves. All of his stuff is well worth exploring. A stylish writer writing about the reality we live in the cyber age. In fact I believe he coined the term ‘cyberspace’ in his early novel Neuromancer
Anyway I’m reading along in SC and there’s snippet of conversation:
“But think about blogs, how each one is actually trying to describe reality.”
“But when you look at blogs, where you’re most likely to find the real info is in the links. It’s contextual, and not only who the blog’s linked to, but who’s linked to the blog.”
He’s perceptive and correct as usual. I have been blogging only a few months but in the blogosphere it’s more about the stacking of links and the race to pile up the most tags, rather than the content or the message. It’s as if the blog does not exist without the requisite number of links vying for attention in each post.
It makes it too easy.
Today’s Industrial Info Resources reports that the German government has passed a draft law on carbon capture and storage (CCS) that will allow major energy producers to forge ahead with the testing and development of pollution-cutting technology at coal-burning power plants. According to the report, the draft law, which has been the subject of much wrangling and controversy, “will go a long way to harmonizing German CCS laws with European Union guidelines.”
CCS is the putative and controversial “white knight” for coal-burning power plants, which have come under the most criticism for their high carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions. CCS systems aim to siphon harmful CO2 from the burning process and store them deep underground in facilities like old oil or gas fields.
The draft law, which could be passed by parliament before the summer break, sets out strict regulations and a framework for pilot projects and demonstration projects. A review is expected in 2015 to see whether CCS is technologically and financially feasible, but the draft law clears the way for big utilities to create large-scale, underground CO2 storage facilities for commercial roll-out after 2020.
The article continued that there are three CCS pilots in Germany:
German utility giant E.ON AG (Dusseldorf) has joined with Siemens AG (NYSE:SI) (Munich) to establish a pilot to capture carbon-dioxide emissions from coal-burning at the Staudinger power plant near Hanau, Germany.
Vattenfall (Stockholm) kicked off the world’s first CCS demonstration plant last September at the Schwarze Pumpe in northern Germany at a cost of 70 million euros ($94 million).
RWE Power (FRA:RWE) (Essen) received permission within the past few days to build a flue gas scrubbing pilot system at the Coal Innovation Centre of the Niederaussem Power Plant in Bergheim, Germany. It will go into operation this July and will aim to handle up to 90 percent of emissions.
Is CCS really the right to to go? There’s a lot of money and energy behind it in a desperate bid to keep coal in the picture, perhaps at the expense of more viable and clean alternative options…
New Generation Biofuels Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ: NGBF) closed the second round of a private placement of common stocks and warrants this week worth $1.64 million.
The firm had earlier raised $1.5 million on March 4, bringing its total private placement to $3.17 million.
In the second installment, the company issued more than 2 million shares of common stock at a price of 80 cents per share.
Investors received five-year exercisable warrants for a number of shares equal to the same number of shares they purchased at a price of 90 cents a share. The lead investor in the second round was 2020 Energy LLC. The managing member of 2020 Energy has partnered with the inventor of the company’s proprietary biofuel technology, Ferdinando Petrucci, to form PTJ Bioenergy Holdings Ltd. As a result 2020 Energy now holds 7.3 million shares, or about 29.5 percent of the New Generation’s outstanding stock. 2020 Energy first got involved as an affiliate when it bought 5.3 million shares of NewGen’s stock from Global Energy Holdings Group (formerly Xethanol Corporation) on March 17.
New Generation Biofuels Holdings Inc. (NGBF) is a development stage renewable fuel provider based in Lake Mary, FL. It holds an exclusive license for North America, Central America and the Caribbean to “commercialize proprietary technology to manufacture alternative biofuels from vegetable oils and animal fats.”
Its product can be used as a replacement for diesel, #2 heating oil, kerosene and other fuel oils.
It said on Thursday (April 2) that it produced and delivered its first truckload sale to a customer from its commercial-scale facility in Baltimore. The shipment went to Delta Chemical.
The company says it has a nominal production capacity of 5 million gallons a year, expandable to up to 50 million gallons. Its plan is to target large stationary users such as the power generation industry, commercial and inductrial processes and space heating, as well as marine transportation.
These days it’s not just about following the money. More importantly, it’s also about finding the best way to find the money that’s out there while making the process more visible and transparent.
That’s a tall order for companies trying to do the right thing on the sustainability front while delving into the murky world of finance and investment for funding, which by its very nature is prone to opaqueness, complexity and secrecy.
Simply put it’s tough to reach investors even in a solid financial and economic environment. So dotting the i’s on sustainability is becoming a crucial piece of the funding puzzle.
That’s where the Global Reporting Initiative, an Amsterdam non-profit, enters the picture. It has developed a framework for disclosure on environmental, social and governance data – also known as ESG disclosures or sustainability reporting – and in a report this week says that companies that fail to link their sustainability reporting and activities to an overall corporate strategy likely will fail to connect with investors.
The report – “Reaching Investors: Communicating Value through ESG disclosures” – was written following “extensive consultation” with the finance industry.
GRI says investors have been a key driver in promoting sustainability reporting – they are increasingly asking companies for ESG information to help them make their investment decisions. Assets of more than $15 trillion – or about 15 percent of total global capital markets – are now managed by signatories to the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment (UNPRI).
“UNPRI signatories commit to integrating ESG issues into investment analysis and to seek appropriate disclosure on ESG issues,” GRI said. The disclosure is based on the GRI reporting framework.
Sean Gilbert, Sustainability Reporting Framework Director at GRI said: “As we can see from the number of investors now actively seeking ESG information in order to help them base investment decisions, the dichotomy between sustainability and long-term business value is false.”
But the report says that for the ESG data to be useful to investors “it must be presented in a consistent way,” in a combined sustainability and annual report, for instance, or in separate documents such as CEO or board statements.
The link between a company’s performance on environmental, social and governance issues and its business strategy is crucial, the report says. “Without this link investors will have no way to gauge what the ESG disclosure might mean for the financial bottom line.”
Sustainability reporting should demonstrate “how the company’s behavior in a rapidly changing economic, environmental and social context is affecting its long-term value – for example how the company is dealing with risks and opportunities presented by climate change or how it is addressing poverty and inequalities in the communities in which it operates and thus derives its workforce and consumers.
“In this context, business has to think differently and perform differently and, as we’ve seen, investors are increasingly seeking out ESG leaders. Sustainability reporting should help investors find those companies as well as help the companies understand how they themselves are positioned in the context of sustainability,” Gilbert said.
It may be that companies and their potential investors are getting it; that a company’s green and sustainable strategy must be an integral part of the overall corporate strategy if they expect to get some greenbacks. A recent survey from the financial research firm KPMG says the majority of the Global Fortune 250 companies now issue sustainability reports.
Given recent financial history it might also help if investors were to implement some sustainable reporting, and lending, of their own.
The report can be downloaded on www.globalreporting.org
It’s scramble-mode for the ethanol producer Biofuel Energy.
The Denver startup reported that it lost $84.1 million last year on revenue of nearly $180 million, due primarily to “hedging losses” on corn contracts and significant costs associated with the startup and operation of its two dry mill ethanol facilities. It lost $12.3 million in the fourth quarter on revenue of $89 million.
It began commercial operations in June 2008 and started ethanol production at two plants, one in Wood River, NE and the other in Fairmont, MN. It “achieved project completion” of both plants last December.
The facilities can produce 230 million gallons per year of fuel grade ethanol and 720 tons of distillers grains.
From its inception the publicly traded company (Nasdaq: Biof) has worked closely with Cargill Inc., the huge agribusiness company. BioFuel has extensive contractual ties with Cargill.
The plant locations were selected primarily based on access to corn supplies, the availability of rail transportation and natural gas and Cargill’s competitive position in the area, BioFuel says. At each location, Cargill has a strong local presence and owns adjacent grain storage facilities. Cargill also provides corn procurement services, markets the ethanol and distillers grain that’s produced and provides transportation logistics for the two plants under long-term contracts. In addition, BioFeul leases grain storage and handling facilities adjacent to the plants from affiliates of Cargill. “We believe that our relationship with Cargill will provide us with a number of competitive advantages.”
It sounded like a great setup. But the economy, the collapse of the commodity market and the difficulties facing every alternative energy startup – even those with strong backing and relationships with giants such as Cargill – are pushing BioFuel to the edge. The company says its operations and cash flows are subject to fluctuations due to changes in commodity prices. In December it said it would no longer pursue construction of three more plant sites it had under evaluation, and BioFuel had to write-off development costs associated with that exercise.
It has continued to post operating losses this year “resulting from poor operating margins due to the relative prices of corn and ethanol.”
Further it’s facing the very strong possibility of defaulting on a senior credit facility.
BioFuel’s liquidity position continues to erode. Under the terms of the company’s senior debt facility with a group of lenders who financed the construction of the two plants, minimum quarterly principal payments of $3.15 million are scheduled to begin on June 30. “Based on current operating margins and the company’s liquidity position, the company may not be able to generate sufficient cash flow to make principal and interest payments when they become due during 2009,” it said.
“Failure to make these payment obligations when they become due would result in events of default under the senior debt facility, which we would have up to 3 days to cure.”
June is not far off. BioFuel is scrambling to restructure and reduce costs and it is exploring various alternatives to address its liquidity issues. Options include job cuts, “operating efficiency initiatives,” renegotiation of its supply and service agreements with Cargill, seeking forbearance or some kind of accommodation from its lenders, and seeking new capital.
However there’s no assurance that any or all of those actions will work.
The next step would be bankruptcy, or as the company told the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission: “If we are unable to reach an agreement with our lenders to restructure our debt or are unable to raise additional capital, or are otherwise unable to generate sufficient liquidity from our operations to satisfy our debt obligations, it may have a material adverse effect on our liquidity and may result in our inability to continue as a going concern. This in turn could potentially force us to seek relief from creditors through a filing under the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.”
When a company raises the b-word in public, the reality usually soon follows.
Believe it or not, about one-half of U.S. employees who use a personal computer at work don’t shut down their computers at day’s end, wasting nearly $3 billion every year powering 108 million unused PCs.
This is according to the 2009 PC Energy Report, commissioned by 1E and the Alliance to Save Energy. The study, done by Harris Interactive says that a company with 10,000 PCs could save more than $165,000 a year in energy costs by powering down their computers each night.
In the U.S. that tab comes to $1.7 billion and about 15 million tons of CO2 emissions.
Data collected between September and October 2008 revealed that more than one-third of employees in the U.K. (38 percent), 32 percent of U.S. employees and 17 percent of German employees who use a PC at work said they either have no idea what power scheme settings are, or how to change the power settings on their PCs.
We’ve probably all worked for companies – you know who you are – that as a matter of policy don’t want employers to turn off their PCs or workstation units.
Hasn’t anyone heard of the hibernate function?