Top Stories

November 04, 2014


Threat to world’s water security greater than thought

Crucial supplies of water in China, the US, India and other major economies are dwindling so fast that the threat to the world’s water security is far worse than is commonly understood, a prominent hydrologist at NASA has warned. The groundwater stored below the earth’s surface in soil and aquifers accounts for up to one-third of the water used globally and for around half the irrigation water used to grow the world’s food. But it is being pumped out so rapidly in some of the driest regions that it can no longer be easily replenished naturally. The affected regions include vital farming areas in the US, Australia, India and the Middle East. Even though groundwater is vitally important, it is poorly monitored and managed compared with more visible sources of water in reservoirs and rivers. Efforts to reform the problem are under way in some places but, in the face of climate change, governments need to do much more to address the problem on a global scale. (FT*)

Circular Economy

Timberland announces pioneering tyre recycling partnership

Outdoor wear specialist Timberland will today unveil an innovative new partnership with tyre manufacturer Omni United designed to make it easier for the material in old tyres to be repurposed as soles for footwear. The new co-branded Timberland Tires will be launched at the Specialty Equipment Market Association automotive trade show in Las Vegas, marking the culmination of a three year partnership that aims to reduce demand for rubber from the footwear industry. The companies said the US-made tyres feature a “rubber formulation that is appropriate for the recycling of the tyres at the end of their life into Timberland shoes, rather than alternatives such as being used for tire-derived fuel or ending up in landfills.” In addition, the companies will also launch a tyre return process designed to ensure the new tyres are returned to designated recycling facilities where the tyres will be processed into sheet rubber for use by Timberland sole manufacturers. (Business Green)

Corporate Reputation

Greenpeace accuses John West and WWF of green spin

Greenpeace has attacked a tie-up between conservation group WWF and MW Brand, the owner of John West tuna, as “green spin”, accusing the company of having backtracked on a public commitment to eliminate the use of controversial fishing methods. Under a deal with WWF, MW Brand has pledged to source all its products from fisheries and farms certified by the Marine Stewardship Council or the Aquaculture Stewardship Council. WWF will assess the group’s supply chain to see how it can be made more sustainable over the next six months. But the deal does not set a time by when MW Brand will ensure its fish is sourced sustainably. Last week, MW Brand went back on its pledge to stop using large nets known as fish aggregation devices (FADs), and said it planned to use something it terms “eco-FADs” instead, an act that prompted Greenpeace’s accusations. WWF said that John West recognised it had to make changes, partly as a result of pressure from Greenpeace, and had brought in WWF to help it move in the right direction. MW Brands said its number one priority was “the conservation of the marine environment and the protection of fish species”. (Guardian)


US fines Hyundai, Kia for fuel claims

South Korean auto makers Hyundai and Kia have agreed to pay a combined penalty of $300 million for overstating fuel-economy claims, the largest such punishment ever, in a settlement that could create a pricey precedent for other car companies. Hyundai and Kia, affiliates of Hyundai Motor Group, will pay a combined $100 million in civil fines and forfeit regulatory credits valued at more than $200 million to settle a two-year-long probe by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Justice Department, the agencies said. Ford is among several other auto makers that have admitted to overstating fuel-economy estimates during the past two years. “This is by far the most egregious case,” EPA administrator Gina McCarthy said during a news conference, in reference to Hyundai-Kia. The EPA and Justice Department pursuit of Hyundai fits into a broader push by the Obama administration to show toughness toward companies that flout federal laws. (Wall Street Journal*)

Innovation and Technology

New battery aims to transform electric cars

A new battery that promises to solve two of the biggest grumbles about electric cars – high prices and low driving ranges – is headed for shop floors in just over a year. The lithium battery, which experts say could be a game-changing “killer app” for the global car market, can triple the driving range of an electric vehicle and significantly lower its costs. Batteries in existing electric cars can account for as much as 30 per cent of the cost. They also need temperature control systems to stop them overheating or catching fire. The new battery does not need the same systems because it operates safely at a wide range of temperatures, which could shave costs. The project has backing from Vertex, the venture capital arm of Temasek, Singapore’s state investment group, and there have reportedly been preliminary discussions with Apple and Tesla, the electric carmaker, as well as most major Asian battery manufacturers. (FT*)

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Image Source: “Yellowfin tuna nurp” by OAR/National Undersea Research Program (NURP) / National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commons