September 25, 2006


Wal-Mart grows 'green' strategies (Mindy Fetterman, 9/25/2006, USA Today)

[M]any environmentalists are ecstatic. Wal-Mart is a very big rock to throw into the pro-environment pond, and its ripples, they say, will be felt across the globe.

"Wal-Mart is a huge player, and they have enormous clout," says Scott Burns of the World Wildlife Fund, which has 10 employees working with Wal-Mart on several projects, including sustainability of fisheries. "They're sending a very powerful signal that already is having effects on the way people produce products for them."

Wal-Mart says it will:

• Slash gasoline use by its trucking fleet, one of the largest in the USA, and use more hybrid trucks to increase efficiency by 25% over the next three years and double it within 10 years. That will save $310 million a year by 2015, the company says.

• Buy 100% of its wild-caught salmon and frozen fish for the North American market only from fisheries that are certified as "sustainable" by the non-profit Marine Stewardship Council within three to five years. That designation means areas of the ocean aren't fished in ways that destroy fish populations.

• Cut energy use at its more than 7,000 stores worldwide by 30% and cut greenhouse-gas emissions at existing stores by 20% in seven years. Wal-Mart is the largest private electricity user in the USA.

• Reduce solid waste from U.S. stores by 25% within three years.

The company, second-largest in revenue in the world behind ExxonMobil, has vowed to invest $500 million a year in energy-saving technologies.

It has built test lab stores in Aurora, Colo., and McKinney, Texas, where it is experimenting with everything from wind power to permeable asphalt that lets rainwater seep through parking lots to help refill groundwater aquifers. It wants to build stores that produce 30% fewer greenhouse emissions in the next four years.

And it has reached out to environmental groups, many of which were once highly critical of the company; Wal-Mart has made them part of its in-house planning.

The other environmentalists oppose these initiatives precisely because they're driven by market forces rather than fetishism.

GM developing home hydrogen refueling device (Chris Woodyard, 9/25/06, USA TODAY)

General Motors is building a prototype for a home hydrogen refueling unit in hope of selling fuel-cell cars by 2011.

The unit, which would make hydrogen using either electricity or sunlight, would help sidestep one of the most vexing problems surrounding the creation of the pollution-free, alternative-power cars: how to persuade oil companies to invest in expensive new hydrogen stations that would compete with their core product, gasoline.

The automaker's goal is an affordable, compact unit that would allow customers to fill their cars overnight in their own garages, says GM spokesman Scott Fosgard.

GM would join Honda, which has already created a model for a home refueling hydrogen unit.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 25, 2006 8:59 AM

While a laudable effort, what GM (or its successor company after bankruptcy) really needs to focus like a laser beam on developing a car - any car - that people will want to put in their garages.

Posted by: Rick T at September 25, 2006 9:36 AM

Rick, Why wait for GM? They had their chance and blew it big time.

Perhaps for its next act, Wal-mart will design the car of the future and provide the national chain of "gas" stations for customers to fuel up.

Imagine everything with a profit motive, getting the taxpayer and and those spening their money in gay abandon, out of the mix.

Can't wait to see how these bold moves will be downplayed in the media.

Posted by: erp at September 25, 2006 11:53 AM

that is why we don't need Koyoto.

Posted by: ic at September 25, 2006 12:27 PM

I am increasingly dubious that Hydrogen has advantages over batteries or biofuels.

Posted by: Mike Earl at September 25, 2006 1:55 PM

NPR had a segment about two months ago on Wal-Mart's entry into the organic food market, which included a complaint from an environmentalist that while Wal-Mart was going to have organic chickens, they weren't organic free-range chickens which was bad, but to add to that, their entry into the organic food market will drive prices down and force other orgainc food supplies to adopt Wal-Mart's high-volume, low profit margin methods (including the elimination of free-range chickens in favor of chicken farm orgainc birds).

He did admit this would open the organic foods market to people who now can't afford it at current prices, but came down on the side of the end not justifying the means, if it means cooped-up organic hens.

Posted by: John at September 25, 2006 2:16 PM

I applaud Wal-Mart for their recent spate of environmentally-friendly initiatives, but "market forces?" Sort of, I guess. Wal-Mart has an image problem, a problem created in part by environmentalists. However fair or unfair this might be, they are reacting to it in ways that will be constructive both for the environment and for their perception by consumers. But the "market forces" at work were put in place by activists, and the resulting changes in operating policies can be credited to - gasp! - the environmental Left.

Posted by: M. at September 25, 2006 7:42 PM

You have to be awfully economically illiterate not to recognize the need to buff your corporate image as a market force.

Posted by: oj at September 25, 2006 8:07 PM

Yes. But who creates the atmosphere in which organic produce, sustainable fishing, permeable asphalt and energy efficiency actually "buff your corporate image?" The free market doesn't do that on its own; most of the benefits to be accrued from these changes in operating policy are extremely long-term, the sort of thing that free markets do very poorly. Environmental "fetishism" created the market force.

You can certainly count it a conservative victory to the extent that government had little hand in the process, though.

To take a line from one of their own texts: "Radicals are only to be feared when you try to suppress them. You must demonstrate that you will use the best of what they offer."

Posted by: M. at September 25, 2006 8:24 PM

Consumers. A market is just businesses responding to consumers making decision after decision. The genius of the market is that businesses can make money off of irrational fetishes as well as rational decisions.

Posted by: oj at September 25, 2006 8:55 PM

All things considered..JUST HOW MANY
("one of the largest in the USA")?? " GASOLINE"
It was always my presumtion that most delivery vehicles of any worth were fueled by "DIESEL" fuel or now with a "BIO-DIESEL MIX"
Anything larger than a big pick-up would ordinarily not use GASOLINE..
Please illuminate my ignorance and preconceptions since this issue has brought forth some misunderstanding among these driven masses.. Befuddledly , Dr.Pork!

Posted by: Dennis Hartelius at October 2, 2006 11:53 PM