Beyond Coal campaigns target US institutions

Not yet much profile in Canada but in the US campaigns against coal-fired heating plants are springing up across the country, particularly in universities. Loosely sponsored by the Sierra Club and Greenpeace, students are organizing to pressure universities and other users of coal for heating to switch from coal to other fuels considered more environment friendly. One of the most high profile campaigns is at Michigan State University, reportedly host of the largest on-campus coal fired heating plant in the country.

The number of coal fired heating plants in Canada is not readily available but it would seem to be only a matter of time before such plants are targeted by student campaigners as is happening in the US.

The MSU Beyond Coal campaign hosts a webpage at

The Sierra Club and Greenpeace campaigns are at  and

Costs of Climate Change for Canada

The National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy has just released a report entitled Paying the Price: The Economic Impact of Climate Change for Canada. The report states that “Climate change will be expensive for Canada and Canadians. Increasing greenhouse gas emissions worldwide will exert a growing economic impact on our own country, exacting a rising price from Canadians as climate change impacts occur here at home.” It estimates that “Climate change costs for Canada could escalate from roughly $5 billion per year in 2020 — less than 10 years away — to between $21 billion and $43 billion per year by the 2050s.”

“The costs of climate change . . . will vary and be uneven across the country. Timber supply in Western Canada will be more affected than in the East. British Columbia’s forest-reliant economy will suffer more than many others while Ontario’s economy — due to its size — will see the largest absolute economic impact. Coastal regions across Canada are also affected differently by climate change. Relative to the total land area of each province and territory, Prince Edward Island’s coastal areas are most at risk. Many dwellings in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia are likely to be impacted given that the area is low-lying and has a high housing density, and the per capita costs of dwelling damage will be highest in British Columbia and Nunavut. Human health impacts and increased health system costs from climate change vary across the four cities we studied, with cities that experience the greatest increases in temperature — Toronto and Vancouver — experiencing the greatest impacts.”

The full report contains fairly detailed analysis on the impact of climate change on the average annual costs of climate change and its impact on forests, land area, dwellings, human health, air quality, visitor spending, and the possible distribution of costs.

The full report and an Executive Summary are available at

Report on gas explosion sets new standard for safety criticism

A report from the National Transportation Safety Board on a natural gas pipeline explosion in the San Francisco area sets a new standard in regulator criticism of corporations. The report is likely to have an influence on expectations of safety performance in a wide range of industries in both the US and Canada. Extensive recommendations on environmental and public safety directed to both companies and governments and including much more than natural gas pipelines are included in the report.

The report, entitled Pacific Gas and Electric Company Natural Gas Transmission Pipeline Rupture and Fire relates to an explosion which took place in San Bruno, CA, in September 2010. The pipeline rupture resulted in a fire that destroyed 38 homes and damaged 70. Eight people were killed, many were injured, and many more were evacuated from the area.

The NTSB report uses unusually strong language to criticize PG&E, a company with a usually decent environmental reputation that has been listed on the Dow Jones Sustainability Index. The NTSB commented that PG&E’s pipeline integrity management program, which should have ensured the safety of the system, was deficient and ineffective because it –

  • Was based on incomplete and inaccurate pipeline information.
  • Did not consider the design and materials contribution to the risk of a pipeline failure.
  • Failed to consider the presence of previously identified welded seam cracks as part of its risk assessment.
  • Resulted in the selection of an examination method that could not detect welded seam defects.
  • Led to internal assessments of the program that were superficial and resulted in no improvements.

The NTSB report and an Executive Summary can be found at

PG&E’s reponse is at

Data centres and environmental reporting

A recent report from the UK independent analyst firm Verdantix, focused on energy, environment and sustainability, reminds us that many large users of data centres are not reporting the energy aspects of their data centre use in their sustainability or environmental reports.

According to Verdantix, only 4 of the 14 major internet and social networking firms in the study – Akamai, Apple, eBay and Google – disclose GHG emissions from their data centres on a global basis. Us Department of Energy reports that data centres now consume as much as 3% of total US electricity use.  The internet and social networking firms have their own reporting issues, but companies that are using large outside data centres should be reporting their share of data centre energy use as if it were their own. Those have have large in-house data centres may or may not be reporting the associated energy use, depending on how they measure their energy use.

More importantly, reporting of data centre energy use should be leading to greater energy efficiency. Energy ratings are becoming a more important component of IT system marketing. Greener IT is very much part of the future and GallonDaily recommends that all companies seeking a more sustainable path forward take a good look at what can be done to reduce their in-house and external data centre energy use.

For information on the Verdantix report visit

The Food Waste blame game

All week there has been a flap going on in the UK media regarding an unpublished, and extremely small, study from the Sustainable Food Institute at the University of Manchester which purports to put some of the blame for food waste on celebrity chefs. The way the argument seems to go is that celebrity chefs, writing in cook books and magazines, put so much pressure on heads of households to serve freshly cooked food that leftovers and more processed foods are being ignored and thrown away.

GallonDaily would not normally write about as yet unpublished research but this one is getting so much coverage, and is so much a follow-up to our recent Gallon Environment Letter feature on food waste, that we bent the rule to highlight the draft findings. But a study based on the behaviour of 19 households still seems to GallonDaily to be a bit weak on real science.

The findings of this draft report, that society should make it socially acceptable or even desirable for people to eat the same meal several nights in a row and/or to use frozen vegetables, seem to GallonDaily to make sense. The concluding finding, that waste is a problem but we need to tackle it differently and not lay the blame at the door of consumers, is one that GallonDaily generally endorses. We would add our own advice, that cooking food for a single household from scratch in a home kitchen is one of the most environmentally and energy inefficient ways to prepare food. This is a topic we will be addressing in a future Gallon Environment Letter.

The outline report from the Sustainable Food Institute can be found at

Industry lawsuit against reusable bag claims update

GallonDaily wrote about this topic back in June. We particularly want to draw attention to an update provided to us by a reader.

A settlement was reached Sept. 13, 2011 and can be viewed at In brief, ChicoBag has won. The original GallonDaily article is at

Evangelicals join campaign against mercury

A US environmental group, the Evangelical Environmental Network, that previously had a fairly low profile has launched a campaign of radio advertisements targeted against three Republican members of the US Congress who are pro-life and who are active in trying to prevent the US Environmental Protection Agency from implementing new rules against mercury emissions from power plants. The theme of the advertisements is summarized by a sentence in one of the advertisements “I can’t understand why Congressman [Ed Whitfield] is fighting to stop the E.P.A. from enforcing its plans specifically meant to protect the unborn by cleaning up dangerous mercury pollution.”

The campaign has real potential to impact the US coal-burning electricity industry by encouraging the EPA to proceed with its mercury rules and by defeating the push in Congress to remove some of EPA’s powers in this area. However, the broader implication may be that this campaign represents the beginning of an increase in “evangelical environmentalism”,  a movement that is likely to be at least as popular among members of evangelical churches in Canada as in the US.

More on the EEN campaign on Mercury and the Unborn, including a link to audio files of the radio advertisements, at

More on evangelical environmentalism on the Creation Care for Pastors website at 

A somewhat out of date summary of some evangelical environmentalist issues, particularly involving climate change, is on Wikipedia at

Americans warming to climate change: poll

At a time when the Republican race for the Presidential nomination might lead Canadians to think that anti-climate change sentiments are rising in that country,  a new Ipsos poll conducted behalf of Stanford University and Reuters actually suggests the opposite. The poll, conducted between September 8 and September 12, 2011, indicates a significant increase in the number of Americans who believe the earth has been warming, from 75% in 2010 to 83% now. Especially noteworthy is the finding that almost three-quarters (72%) of Republicans believe global warming has been happening. A large majority believe that climate change is caused by things that people have been doing, as opposed to natural causes and a similar large majority believe that the world’s temperature will continue to rise over the next 100 years if nothing is done to prevent it.

However, the poll shows that climate change is still a somewhat misunderstood subject and opinions remain somewhat volatile. Future public opinion may well be influenced by the outcomes of the 2012 Presidential race.

A press release containing poll highlights as well as the full report are available at

The New Sustainability Champions

The World Economic Forum, in partnership with The Boston Consulting Group, has just published a report, Redefining the Future of Growth: The New Sustainability Champions, which identifies a group of 16 companies from developing countries that have adopted, and are profiting from, advanced sustainability practices. The idea is that these companies will serve as role models for others in developing countries but GallonDaily suggests that these companies may also show producers and governments in developed countries that developing country manufacturers are catching up with, and in some cases surpassing, developed country companies in terms of sustainability initiatives. In addition, the case studies provide illustration to Canadian importers of some of the opportunities for sustainable products that are available from developing countries.

The full report, a very encouraging read, is available at

Peak elements – not exactly, but maybe more serious

The British Gelogical Survey has just published a “risk list” of elements that are of commercial importance but for which the supply is at risk. Two points caught the attention of GallonDaily’s editor:

1) many less well-known elements are important for production of electronic components required for today’s information technology; and

2) none of the most at risk elements are produced in commercial quantities in Canada, meaning that Canada will not benefit from the inevitable price rises that will follow from declining or more inaccessible supplies.

Among the most at risk elements are antimony, platimum group elements, mercury, tungsten, rare earth elements, niobium, and strontium.

The BGS reports on scarcity, production concentration, reserve base distribution, and political stability of producing areas. For those interested in environmental and social impacts of mining as well as the economic drivers for metal recycling, this report provide valuable information. It can be found at and follow the link to download the Risk list 2011 publication.