Businesses Look Ahead to Greener 2008

by kespeland on January 6, 2008

2007 put the environment in the spotlight all over Louisville and Kentucky. 2008 could deliver even more of a green focus. WFPL’s Kristin Espeland has this snapshot of what’s on the minds of environmental leaders as we enter 2008.

This year…. we may get deeper into the nitty gritty: the effects of climate change unfolding right here, in our backyards, and how Kentucky is or isn’t responding. If climate change went from a question mark to an exclamation point last year….this year….it’s on everyone’s agenda…period. The Sierra Club’s Steve Henry says his organization will be partnering with Louisville to help the city make good on a nationwide climate change pact.

“Louisville participates in the US Conference of Mayors’ agreement on climate change. And that’s an excellent blueprint if you will for how a community can address climate change. There’s so much that can be done at the local level.”

Henry says the Club also plans to keep coal-fired power plants in its sites, “….trying to ensure that power from coal fired power plants is much more efficient and that the older plants are either retired or if they’re to be replaced with the best available technologies.”

Climate change is also top of mind for the operator of many of those plants: E.on. E.on’s environmental director Sharon Dodson says this year the power company will be retrofitting plants with several pollution controls.

“The number one pollution control device that we’ve really been focused on has been what’s called a scrubber. And a scrubber removes the sulfur dioxide from the emissions going out the stack. So by 2009 we’ll pretty much be scrubbed across our entire fleet.”

That could help prevent acid rain. The work mainly ensures compliance with federal regulations but it doesn’t change the fact, Dodson says, that coal will continue to be the fuel of choice.

“The problem for us here in Kentucky is our resource truly is coal. We have other resources that are available. But from a geographic position, renewable resources, the opportunity there for us is minimal.

Still, Dodson says E.on is planning to add enough renewable energy sources to its portfolio to equal 750 megawatts…that’s about what a large coal-fired power plant produces. An the company could need all the renewables it can find if congress passes global warming legislation. She expects it this year. So does her counterpart in an entirely different industry: alcoholic beverages. Brown-Forman’s Cheryl-Lynne Patrick oversees efforts to help the company reduce its environmental impact… from the energy used in office buildings to the water used in distilleries. Patrick says the multi-billion dollar beverage company completed a study of every each facility’s carbon footprint in the US and Canada. And this year they’ll do Europe and Mexico. But Patrick says the untapped opportunity this year may lie elsewhere…

“We focused pretty heavily on production and pre-production… but we might have some opportunities in how we engage with the consumer, whether it’s what materials we use for our displays…. How we do promotional events…”

Or even how they encourage customers to recycle bottles. Both Brown-Forman and E.on see 2008 as the year when they not only get greener producing their products, but appeal to their customers to get greener too. They’re not alone in a business community that’s beginning to see responding to climate change as not only morally imperative, but financially imperative. And addressing climate change has been topping, and will continue to top the list of concerns -of course -of more than just businesses. City agencies, nonprofit environmental groups, educational institutions, and individual citizens will all be trying out solutions, everyone learning as they go.

Listen to the story.

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