Alberta court gets tough on deliberate spill

Western Biodiesel Inc., a company with a plant near High River , Alberta, capable of producing 19 million litres per year of ASTM fuel grade biodiesel, was recently fined $160,000 under Alberta’sEnvironmental Protection and Enhancement Act for releasing wastewater containing methanol into the environment and for providing false or misleading information to investigators.

Reports say that a plant manager ordered workers to release a mixture of water and methanol on to the ground on the Company’s property. The following day a welder was working in the area of the spill and the methanol ignited. No one was injured in this incident.

The plant is currently shut down. In 2007 Western Biodiesel received a federal contribution of $638,559 from the federal government’s ecoAgriculture Biofuels Capital initiative towards a reported total plant cost of eight million dollars. In 2009 the federal government announced that the plant will receive up to $19.9 million over seven years to support biofuels development. The Government of Alberta contributed $2,416,031 from the Alberta Biorefining Commercialization and Market Development Program and the Bioenergy Infrastructure Development Program.

The Alberta Environment announcement of the fine is at http://alberta.ca/home/NewsFrame.cfm?ReleaseID=/acn/201108/31105D35E9E83-0D9D-0FC5-499A49F6BEDDA1CF.html . The announcement of the federal funding is at http://www.marketwire.com/press-release/federal-government-invests-in-the-alberta-biodiesel-industry-789634.htm and at http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/media/newcom/2009/200953-eng.php

Criticism of LEED Buildings

Last week CBC radio in Toronto interviewed John Straube, professor of building science in the Civil Engineering Department and School of Architecture at the University of Waterloo. The topic was the recent falls of glass from Toronto highrise buildings but Prof. Straube also introduced to radio listeners the concept that LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) buildings do not achieve the energy savings that LEED claims.

Having wondered for some time about the lack of quantifiable energy and environmental standards for LEED buildings, GallonDaily’s editor went looking for documentation to back up Prof. Straube’s claim. It was quite easy to find under the title Mis—LEED—ing on the website http://www.buildingscience.com/documents/insights/mis-leed-ing . Building Science Corporation is a consultancy and information provider focussed on a wide range of building aspects: John Straube is a principal of the Company.

The Mis—LEED—ing article is unsigned but is apparently written by the principals of Building Science Corporation. It provides a detailed examination of data on LEED from the New Buildings Institute and the US Green Building Council. The analysis is too detailed to present here but is well explained in the paper. The conclusion: “LEED buildings did not conclusively save any energy compared to typical buildings built at the same time”.

The Straube critique is not the only criticism of LEED that can be found in the literature but it is a close to home critique. GallonDaily’s advice is that those who commission new buildings might want to ensure that claimed energy and environmental savings are real. At the same time, the Canadian and US Green Building Councils might want to consider making sure that the LEED program achieves real energy savings and real environmental improvements. LEED has arguably been the most succesful sectoral environmental initiative in North America to date. It would be a huge disappointment, as well as a potential legal and financial risk, if ultimately it all turns out to have been a massive greenwash.

There is a response to the criticisms of LEED at http://www.cagbc.org/AM/PDF/110401_Defending_LEED.PDF but in GallonDaily’s opinion it doesn’t go very far in addressing the well-documented criticisms documented by Building Science Corporation.

Conservative Party Illustrates How Not to Tackle an Issue

Robert Keyserlingk was a professor of history at the University of Ottawa. Like so many people today, he was looking forward to a long and active retirement. But such was not to be. Soon after retirement he died of mesothelioma, attributed by doctors to his exposure to asbestos while serving on ships in the Canadian navy many years before.

His grieving wife put up a website, http://www.canadianasbestosexports.ca explaining her husband’s story and expressing, in perfectly reasonably terms, her frustration over her husband’s death and the fact that Canada still exports asbestos to countries around the world. Within the website is a section Where our four Canadian federal parties stand on the asbestos issue.

Ms. Keyserlingk illustrated the position of Prime Minister Harper with the logo of the Conservative Party of Canada, a blue letter C with a red maple leaf inside the loop. CPC staff jumped on this affront, sending an email threatening “further action” for “unauthorized use of trademark”.

If ever there were something stupid for a corporation to do when faced with a trivial misuse of trademark by a person who feels that the organization is committing an offense to her family, the response of the CPC is the most egregious. Now thousands of websites and newsmedia all over the world are publishing articles pointing out that Canada still exports asbestos and is issuing threats against a citizen who, in the completely understandable circumstances of the death of a family member most likely as a result of exposure to asbestos, has chosen to criticize the corporation and its position on export of asbestos.

If Prime Minister Harper has any understanding of intelligent public relations he will immediately apologize to Robert Keyserlingk’s widow and will censure Party Executive Director Dan Hilton, a person whose lack of understanding of intelligent public relations has done much more harm to the Canadian asbestos industry and to the pro-asbestos position of the Government of Canada than the heartfelt but somewhat amateur Canadian Asbestos Exports website could ever have done, had he not weighed in on the issue from a very hazardous perspective!

Ray Anderson dies of cancer

Almost anyone who has attended an environment and business conference in the last 15 or so years will have heard of Ray Anderson. Interface, Inc., the company he founded in 1973, has, under his leadership, become the poster child for sustainable development in business. The company’s model is based on tiles of carpet, allowing replacement of those parts of a commercial carpet that have become worn instead of having to replace the entire carpet. The removed carpeting is recycled back into new carpet. Interface has also become the poster company for Natural Step, the most stringent environmental management program for business in the world.

Since he read Paul Hawken’s book The Ecology of Commerce in 1994, Anderson has been a regular speaker at environment and business conferences, inspiring other business leaders to follow in the Interface footsteps. Currently Interface is engaged on a program called Mission Zero, to achieve zero waste and zero environmental impact by 2020. Anderson will be sorely missed.

More information at http://www.interfaceglobal.com/

Scam University

The website of Glastonbury University, http://www.glastonbury-edu.org.uk/ , looks just like the website of any other university, though it is a bit thin in mention of faculty and research activities. It even offers a B.SC(Hons) in Environmental and Water Technology, a Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering, and a Diploma in Clean Energy Management, thus justifying its mention in GallonDaily!

However, according to an article in the Western Daily Press newspaper, the university is nothing more than an empty office.

See http://www.thisissomerset.co.uk/Glastonbury-uni-house-learning/story-13103910-detail/story.html for more information.

UK small business interested in going green

The results of a survey recently published by the Forum of Private Business in the UK indicate a high level of interest in going green by small and medium businesses in that country.

Among the results of the survey:

  • 41% of survey respondents have streamlined business processes, 28% have reduced energy usage, and 28% have embraced more energy efficient equipment. Only 10% have done nothing in the way of greening their business.
  • 77% of respondents disagree that being green is impossible in the present economic climate 52% argue that green taxes inhibit their ability to invest in reducing energy use and 75% believe that environmental legislation focuses on the needs of larger businesses rather than small firms.
  • 52% of the small businesses surveyed believe they cannot become more environmentally friendly until they are able to be more profitable.
  • 38% of respondents have used or recommended to their staff national or local environmental initiatives introduced by the Government, while 48% have not.
  • 33% of respondents believe ‘green’ energy providers are markedly more expensive than traditional suppliers and are therefore not worth considering, 38% disagree with this.
  • 38% of respondents have taken proactive cost control steps by switching utilities suppliers, but few businesses are using environmental consultants with over half of respondents (54%) indicating they do not believe they are appropriate for their businesses.
  • 73% of respondents focus on ‘common sense solutions’ to reducing waste but 31% only begin to assess how to reduce energy costs when they receive a bill or contract renewal form, while 16% use meters to identify poorly functioning equipment or inefficient processes.
  • 24% of panel members would consider installing energy generating equipment, such as wind turbines or solar panels if there were more loans or grants to help them to do so, 20% said they do not believe it is their decision to make because they rent their premises, the property is listed or they are trying to sell it.
  • 11% would like to know more about green technology so that they can maximise their use of it. Just as important for many respondents is accurate information about the costs and pay back terms involved.

Among the items the Forum is calling on the Government to implement are:

  • Think small first when producing environmental policies affecting businesses.
  • Incentivise the green agenda: rather than simply introducing taxes to persuade business owners that the green agenda is more than a revenue raising exercise with little in return, such as by providing environmental support structures that are more readily accessible to small businesses.
  • Clarify the business case for energy efficient technology and provide better information on the choices available.

The Forum of Private Business is a not-for-profit organisation providing comprehensive business support, protection and reassurance to small to medium-sized businesses across the UK.

More information about the survey is available at http://www.fpb.org/news/2446/Small_businesses_think_going_green_can_boost_their_bottom_line_but_see_tax_and_red_tape_as_barriers_to_environmentalism.htm

Warning: fictitious conference scam

The publishers of Gallon Environment Letter have recently been receiving an increasing number of emails promoting environmental and social responsibility conferences that will not happen. For some it is obvious immediately, from the poor quality of English language used, that the announcement is a scam, but recently we have seen conference promotions that are quite well written and that are backed up with websites with programs, exhibitor applications, accommodation details, and all the rest of the trappings. A significant number of the scam conferences purport to be organized by a United Nations organization across two cities, one in the US and one in a developing country, but even this is by no means a certain identifier.

GallonDaily recommends that readers never communicate with a conference organized by an agency with which they are not totally familiar. Scammers are even using names which are similar to actual agencies that may be recognized by readers of their emails. The following steps are suggested if you are interested in a conference but not fully familiar with the organizing agency:

  • never reply to a conference invite email. Instead, go to the conference website, check it out as recommended below, and then reply with a fresh email.
  • check with one or more of the listed speakers to make sure that they are actually scheduled to speak at the conference. Most speakers will be pleased to be in touch with someone who is interested in their session, or, if the conference is fictitious, will be outraged, but pleased to have been made aware, that their name is being used to promote it.
  • check with the hotel or conference centre at which the event is to be held. Hotels and conference are usually quite pleased to confirm that a particular event is scheduled for their facility and they will usually have obtained a cash deposit for reservation of the facility, something that scammers are unlikely to have paid.
  • check with the agency sponsoring the event, most easily by entering the name of the agency, surrounded by double quotes, into Google or your favorite search engine. If a quality search engine cannot find the name of the agency as used in the conference announcement you can be pretty sure that the event does not exist.
  • never give upfront money or credit card information to a conference organizer to cover your air travel or accommodations. Take a few extra minutes to arrange your own air travel and hotel with a reputable travel agent, airline, or hotel chain. It will probably save you money and will ensure that your tickets and reservation actually exist. Despite claims that conference organizers can get you better rates, it is GallonDaily’s experience that ‘conference’ rates at hotels are often inflated above those available through other channels and that a much cheaper rate is often available at a hotel just a short walk away from the conference.

New family of chemicals of concern

US Environmental Protection Agency is expressing concern about the toxicity of some members of a family of chemicals which they refer to as ‘glymes’. Glymes are persistent organic chemicals and, if confirmed as toxic to the environment and/or human health, might easily become the next chemical scare. EPA is trying to regulate the chemicals before they become a serious contaminant but the regulatory requirements for pulling an existing use in the US are high.

If you are located in Canada there is a good chance you have never heard of glymes. GallonDaily’s editor, who reviews a multitude of household product ingredients to determine whether they qualify as green products, has never seen a ‘glyme’ declared as a product ingredient. However, just because the term glyme is not used in Canadian industry does not mean that the substances are not being used. Your editor has seen some of the following, which are apparently the glyme chemicals, listed as product ingredients:

  • Monoethylene glycol dimethyl ether
  • Diethylene glycol dimethyl ether
  • Diethylene glycol diethyl ether
  • Triethylene glycol dimethyl ether
  • Diethylene glycol dibutyl ether
  • Tetraethylene glycol dibutyl ether
  • Tetraethylene glycol dimethyl ether
  • Ethylene glycol diethyl ether
  • Tetraethylene glycol diethyl ether
  • Pentaethylene glycol diethyl ether
  • Polyethylene glycol dimethyl ether
  • Polyethylene glycol dibutyl ether
  • Pentaethylene glycol dibutyl ether
  • Triethylene glycol dimethyl ether

Companies using any of these substances in their own operations or in products carrying their brand are advised to follow closely the US Environmental Protection Agency’s regulatory initiatives with respect to ‘glymes’. For details see the US Federal register at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-07-12/html/2011-17084.htm

Electric vehicles may not need gas stations

Last month Walgreens, second largest drugstore chain in the US, announced that it intends to install electric vehicle charging stations at approximately 800 of its almost 8,000 stores. The charging stations will feature either a high-speed charger that can add 30 miles of range in as little as 10 minutes of charging time, or a Level 2 charger that can add up to 25 miles of range per hour of charge. The charging stations will be  located at Walgreen stores in Boston, Denver, Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. as well as select locations in Florida, New Jersey, Oregon, Tennessee and Washington state. Walgreens is already installing EV charging stations at more than 60 stores in Houston, Dallas/Fort Worth and Chicago.

Walgreen believes that its announced initiatives for 800 + 60 electric vehicle charging stations will make it the largest retail host of EV recharging in the United States.

The Walgreen initiative seems likely to signal that electric vehicle charging will probably not take place at current gasoline filling stations or even in municipal parking lots, though some municipalities have already announced that they intend to provide EV chargers in some municipal lots. GallonDaily predicts that electric vehicle charging will become a competitive feature of supermarkets, large drug stores, big box retail sites, and larger coffee shops. After all, why waste time sitting at a gas station when you could be shopping or eating donuts and drinking coffee during the time it takes to refuel your electric car.

For more information about the Walgreen initiative visit http://news.walgreens.com/article_display.cfm?article_id=5452

Global Environment Industry Doing Well

A just-released report from the UK Government’s Department for Business Innovation and Skills shows that the Low Carbon Environmental Goods and Service sector has been significantly outperforming both the global and the domestic (UK) economy. Data presented include:

  • The global total for LCEGS Sales in fiscal 2009/10 (April 1 to March 31) is £3.2 trillion. This shows an annual increase from 2007/8 to 2008/9 of 3.1% and from 2008/9 to 2009/10 of 1.8%.
  • In 2009/10 global Low Carbon sales activities were estimated at £1.5 trillion, Renewable Energy sales at £0.9 trillion, and Environmental goods and services at £0.7 trillion.
  • The largest sub sectors are; Alternative Fuels (16%), Building Technologies (13%), Wind (12%), Alternative Fuel and Vehicles (11%), Geothermal (9%) and Water Supply & Waste Water Treatment (8%). These percentages are unchanged since 2007/08.
  • Asia accounts for 38% of global sales, followed by the Americas (30%) and Europe (28%).

The report contains a large amount of data on global and UK domestic growth in a wide range of low carbon and environmental product subsectors,  making it valuable for any company interested in exporting these goods and services,  and is available at http://www.bis.gov.uk/assets/biscore/business-sectors/docs/l/11-992-low-carbon-and-environmental-goods-and-services-2009-10