Category Archives: Newsworthy

World Council of Churches Divesting from Fossil Fuels

Oil rigs with crossIt’s a movement that includes more than 500 million people in 110 countries. They are people who believe in a higher power, but also understand the value of science. It’s a movement that will likely grow and have a major economic and environmental impact across the globe.

It’s the World Council of Churches announcement that it will divest from fossil fuels.

The council, which represents a half-billion Christians from every continent on the planet, recently announced that it will stop investing in fossil fuels.

The announcement was particularly interesting not just because of the size of the organization, but because the organization is clearly articulating that it believes not only in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, but also in the science that shows that fossil fuels are leading to global warming.

There have been other organizations that have divested, but none with the influence and sheer numbers as the World Council of Churches. In other words, an organization that needs significant returns on its investments to achieve its mission turning away from what is seemingly “easy money” (the energy industry, which burns fossil fuels to make money, has been raking in record profits in recent years) will almost certainly lead to other organizations to do the same.

What the World Council of Churches decision means

At first glance, it might seem risky to divest in fossil fuels. After all, with big oil, gas and coal companies raking in anywhere between $95 and $120 billion a year in profits, it almost seems irresponsible not to get in on the cash grab.

However, the divestment movement has some small companies and organizations looking beyond short-term returns on their investments and toward decisions that make long-term sense—for the entire world as well as the economy

But until now, most of the green companies and organizations that have made the decision to divest have been small—certainly much smaller than the World Council of Churches.

Some companies and organizations haven’t considered it because they feared pushback from investors who would see the decision as financially irresponsible. Others worried about being labeled as “tree huggers.” Then there were those who figured that their divestment wouldn’t make any difference at all.

Now that the council has joined the movement, all of those excuses will likely go out the window and into the fresh air.

Having such a well-respected, large organization join the other smaller, green companies in the movement gives it credibility. It also demonstrates that money shouldn’t be the only goal of companies and organizations managing an investment portfolio. And, if the headlines generated by the council’s announcement are any indication, it shows that people across the country support divestment in fossil fuels.

The public relations bump, in and of itself, might just be worth it.

 

Latest Developments in Green Energy Technologies

Solar panel and eolic system on green park

Today, the quest for green certification is at the forefront of national media and political debates. With suppliers and consumers alike becoming more environmentally focused, the current energy market is expanding to reduce reliance on fossil fuel technologies. Government schemes and incentives encourage industry leaders to follow green certification initiatives in order to reduce the national carbon footprint. As technology advances rapidly, there are a number of options which come to the forefront of the discussion.

Solar Energy

Harnessing the energy emitted by the sun is not a novel concept. However, it has taken a significant amount of time and research in order to refine this energy source and increase its efficiency. Currently, there is a significant push in harnessing solar energy as the Government intends to reduce the investment tax from 30% to 10% in 2017. As such, solar energy is nearing grid parity in various parts of the South-West, where the natural climate and sunlight exposure lends itself easily to the installation of roof panels. Across various parts of Nevada, California and Arizona, solar energy is currently priced at $65/kWh, which is a significant decrease in price from levels throughout the 90s.

Biofuels

Investors’ interest in biofuels has fluctuated rapidly over the years, due to an inconsistency in the research and development of such fuels. However, there has been vast improvement in the quality of ethanol biofuels due to significant involvement from the USDA and various universities. Interest in crops such as Jatropha (In 2007 Goldman Sachs cited Jatropha curcas as one of the best candidates for future biodiesel production) continues to rise, indicating a significant global investment in biofuels.

Energy Efficiency at Home and at Work

As public knowledge of climate change grows rapidly, many suppliers are finding ways to increase

Within the workplace, the Better Buildings, Better Plants program aims to challenge industry to achieve green certification with ambitious targets. Over 120 partners and 1,750 plants are involved in the program, each committing to reduce energy use by 25% by 2023. energy efficiency in homes and workplaces. The ‘Smart Meter’ allows consumers to easily manage their energy use in order to keep a tab on their expenditure. However, despite the installation of over 30 million Smart Meters nationwide, the concept has not been as successful as intended. Rather, the inclusion of broadband meters, allowing connected home service and lower costs, has vastly outperformed these meters as customers are responding to the possibility of a communal home service.

Ohio Senate Wants to Ban LEED Certification

LEED CertifiedRecently, the Ohio Senate passed a resolution against use of the LEED certifications. While not binding legislation, this resolution could have a big impact on how government and school buildings are constructed (source).

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is an organization formed by a private group called the U.S. Green Building Council. They determine a set of environmental standards for building construction, and control a certification process.  Becoming “LEED Certified” has been the gold standard for environmental building certifications. While often criticized for being cost-prohibitive for most organizations, LEED has been a leader in green building certification.

Political pressure seems to have been spearheaded by some chemical trade groups, including the American Chemistry Council, who object to the latest LEED standard, LEED v4. Among other things, this requires organizations to disclose building materials.  Testimony for the bill included a suggestion that LEED v4 contains a list of “blacklisted” chemicals. LEED claims that no such blacklist exists.

Joe Blattner, CEO of Class-G, a company that provides a platform for virtually any company that manages in an environmentally-friendly fashion to certify as a sustainably-managed organization, says he was dumbfounded by the resolution. “LEED-certified buildings score high points for sustainability with us,” he said. “The notion of a politically-motivated ban on LEED just seems inconsistent with the public’s clear demand for greater environmental initiatives, and frankly, inconsistent with democracy.”

Excerpts of the resolution follow. The entire resolution can be found here.

RESOLVED, That we, the members of the 130th General Assembly of the State of Ohio, urge Ohio state agencies and other government entities to use green building rating systems, codes, or standards that are consistent with state energy efficiency and environmental performance objectives and policies; and be it further

RESOLVED, That the only systems, codes, and standards used in state agency and other government buildings be those that have been developed in an open and transparent way with the input of Ohio building materials and products manufacturers and harvesters to ensure that the use of green building rating systems, codes, and other standards from the private sector are consistent with Ohio objectives and policies; and be it further

RESOLVED, That the State of Ohio use private sector green building rating systems, codes, and other standards to implement state energy efficiency and environmental performance objectives provided that they are voluntary consensus standards that are properly grounded in science and include the use of environmental and health criteria that are based on risk assessment methodology generally accepted by applicable scientific disciplines; and be it further

RESOLVED, That the use of green building rating systems, codes, and other standards that have been developed pursuant to ANSI procedures be presumptively deemed to be open, transparent, and voluntary consensus standards suitable for Ohio government use; and be it further

RESOLVED, That the LEED v4 green building rating system no longer be used by Ohio’s state agencies and government entities until the USGBC conforms its system development to the ANSI voluntary consensus standard procedures as confirmed by ANSI or until the state, after an opportunity for public comment and participation, incorporates the LEED v4 system by reference, in whole or in part, into the administrative rules for state agency or government entity building standards; and be it further

RESOLVED, That the OFCC continue to incorporate energy efficiency and sustainable design features into approved school projects through the use of alternative green building rating systems, codes, and standards other than LEED v4….