Finance

Ban Bottled Water? Industry Scrutinized in Parched California

Publication: NBC News   Date: May 11, 2015   View Article

Thirsty? Drink tap water.

That’s the message being pushed in parched California, where companies such as Swiss food giant Nestle are bottling for profit water that they pipe from public lands, pump from the desert, and draw from municipal water supplies as citizens are asked to curtail their own water consumption.

“In a historic drought like we are having, it just seems like a really, really poor use of a scarce resource,” said Eddie Kurtz, the executive director of the California-based Courage Campaign which is petitioning the California Water Resources Control Board to immediately shut down Nestlé’s water bottling plants.

The campaign, he said, “is a gateway, an opportunity for us to engage people” in a broader dialogue about water management in California.

Billions of Dollars of Real Estate at Risk to Wildfire, Experts Say

Publication: NBC News   Date: April 24, 2015   View Article

Seeking the beauty of nature, Americans just can’t stop building houses among trees that will, sooner or later, go up in flames.

“It is truly a when, not if,” Sean McVay, a homeowner in Evergreen, Colorado, said of the threat that a wildfire will tear through his wooded community in the Rocky Mountain foothills west of Denver. But that doesn’t mean he plans to move. McVay bought the house last year. Like most homeowners there, he’s an outdoor enthusiast.

“Being part of the wooded environment is a big draw,” he said.

McVay is not alone. More than 1.1 million properties in the western United States were identified as highly vulnerable to wildfire in a 2015 risk report from analytics firm CoreLogic. The cost to rebuild those homes would total $269 billion, according to the report, which was written to inform the insurance industry and, perhaps, sway policymakers to encourage fire-safe construction in areas susceptible to wildfires.

More Fuel-Efficient Jets Could Lead to Passenger Nirvana

Publication: NBC News   Date: March 4, 2015   View Article

Want more legroom, more direct flights, and less time stuck in holding patterns? It could be coming to airline passengers, but at a price: higher fares.

Regulators are moving along with targets intended to push commercial airlines to slash their emissions of carbon dioxide not by stuffing more of us onto the existing fleet, but by targeting the underlying issue of aircraft fuel efficiency. That will mean new, fuel-efficient airplanes, an upgrade that could come with creature comforts such as more legroom and state-of-the-art inflight entertainment.

But integrating new airplanes into existing fleets and upgrading technology will cost money, which may lead to higher fares, noted Vera Pardee, a San Francisco-based attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, one of several environmental groups that are pushing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to regulate airline greenhouse gas emissions.

New Technologies, Contracts Bolster Growing Energy Storage Business

Publication: NBC News   Date: January 25, 2015   View Article

Promising technological advances and a host of lucrative new contracts and incentives are encouraging signs to alternative energy watchers who say that the market for storing wind and solar-generated electricity could become a multibillion-dollar industry in the next decade.

Electric engineers have long argued that affordable and reliable energy storage is an essential component of an electric power grid that is supplied by an ever-growing share of renewable energy. That’s because the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow exactly when utilities need it to.

But the cost of energy storage, until recently, remained too high to serve as a practical option. Instead, utilities largely relied on so-called “peaker plants” that they can ramp up within a few minutes to meet demand when, for example, air conditioners are cranked up on a steamy summer day.

Who Digs Solar and Wind Power? That’s Right: Miners

Publication: NBC News   Date: January 9, 2015   View Article

Mines from the Americas to Africa and Australia are slowly becoming unlikely hotspots for the production and use of green energy.

In some places, wind and solar farms resurface revenue from deserted mine lands. Elsewhere, mining companies are powering a portion of ongoing operations with renewable energy, which is now cost competitive with traditional fossil fuels and gives a green sheen to an industry often maligned by environmentalists.

To be sure, these are early days for these strange bedfellows. The reason for the coupling of mines and green energy varies from site to site and country to country, according to experts, but the trend is global and growing.

Drying Up? Six Industries at Big Risk in California’s Drought

Publication: NBC News   Date: September 29, 2014   View Article

In drought-stricken California, workers in industries from golf to medical marijuana are struggling to prevent the lack of water from drying up business. Most are cautiously watching the weather in hopes that fall and winter storms bring enough rain and snow to keep their doors open. But for some companies, the persistent lack of moisture has been too much: They’ve already been forced to close.

That’s Nuts: Almond Boom Strains California Water Supply

Publication: NBC News   Date: June 22, 2014   View Article

Asia’s love of nuts is draining California dry.

Amid one of the worst droughts in the state’s history, farmers are scrambling to find enough water to irrigate lucrative almond trees they planted after abandoning other, less thirsty crops.

Why’s there such a market for California nuts? As incomes in countries such as China, South Korea, and India have risen, so has demand for nuts that formerly were out of reach for many Asians. Added to the mix are Wall Street firms who, smelling a quick buck, are paying top dollar for vegetable farms and converting them to orchards.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach