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Bernie Sanders’ $16 Trillion Climate Plan Is Nothing Short of a Revolution

For the orig­i­nal, click here.

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On Thurs­day, Bernie Sanders released his long-​​awaited pres­i­den­tial cli­mate plan. And folks, Bernie is gonna Bernie.

You can hear his voice in every­thing as it spits hot fire about pros­e­cut­ing the fos­sil fuel indus­try, uplift­ing work­ers, and cre­at­ing a whole swath of new pub­lic works pro­grams and infra­struc­ture. It also calls for 100 per­cent renew­able energy for trans­porta­tion and elec­tric­ity sec­tors by 2030 while eschew­ing nuclear power and demil­i­ta­riz­ing the world, set­ting a goal that’s some­where between wildly ambi­tious and out of reach. In that regard, it per­fectly cap­tures the icon­o­clas­tic nature of the Ver­mont sen­a­tor him­self. But whether it can be imple­mented is a big ques­tion mark.

For­mer pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Jay Inslee, who exited the 2020 race on Wednes­day, made waves when he announced a $9 tril­lion plan to com­bat cli­mate change, a large por­tion of which would be lever­aged invest­ments from the pri­vate sec­tor. Sanders’ plan goes much, much fur­ther. It guar­an­tees a $16.3 tril­lion invest­ment through 2030 to rad­i­cally reshape Amer­i­can life and address the cli­mate crisis.

The plan itself doesn’t focus on where the money will come from, though the cam­paign did say it would come in part from new taxes on the rich, rais­ing rev­enue from the plan itself, reduced social safety net costs, and a few other sources. Instead, it focuses on who gets the money. The plan com­mits tril­lions of dol­lars to grants for low– and middle-​​income fam­i­lies to do every­thing from home weath­er­iza­tion to buy­ing a new elec­tric vehi­cle, and it would cre­ate a whole new host of pub­licly owned energy and inter­net infra­struc­ture. It also uses lan­guage like “we will spend,” “we plan to pro­vide,” and “give.” I’m not going all bUt HoW wIlL wE pAy FoR iT, given that we need a liv­able planet, but the lan­guage and the recip­i­ents them­selves are the mes­sage: This is a god­damn revolution.

Among the out­lays, Sanders would com­mit $2.37 tril­lion to renew­able energy and stor­age, which the plan says would be enough of an invest­ment to meet the country’s energy needs. Any renew­able energy the gov­ern­ment gen­er­ates would be pub­licly owned, and a Sanders admin­is­tra­tion would pri­or­i­tize sell­ing it to pub­licly owned util­i­ties and coop­er­a­tives at cur­rent rates to keep costs down. The cam­paign esti­mates that alone would raise $6.4 tril­lion of the $16.3 tril­lion needed to fund the tran­si­tion. The plan high­lights this under a bul­let point about need­ing to “end greed in our energy system.”

To that end, the plan also says Sanders would instruct the Depart­ment of Jus­tice (DOJ) to go after fos­sil fuel com­pa­nies for both civil and crim­i­nal penal­ties. So far, cases wind­ing through the state court sys­tems have largely failed to hold Big Oil account­able for lying to every­one from the pub­lic to share­hold­ers. There may be a fed­eral prece­dent, though.

Michael Ger­rard, the direc­tor of the Sabin Cen­ter for Cli­mate Change Law, told Earther that Sanders “is try­ing to repli­cate and go beyond what hap­pened in 2006, when after a lengthy trial DOJ obtained the civil con­vic­tion of eleven major tobacco com­pa­nies under the Rack­e­teer Influ­enced Cor­rupt Orga­ni­za­tion (RICO).” The result of that case changed how Big Tobacco could adver­tise and forced them to issue cor­rec­tive state­ments about the adverse effects of smok­ing, though no fines were levied. I would ven­ture to guess a Sanders’ DOJ would hope for a stronger outcome.

Patricia Hidalgo-​​Gonzalez named a 2019–2020 Siebel Scholar in Energy Science!

Patri­cia Hidalgo-​​Gonzalez was today named a  2019–2020 Siebel Scholar in Energy Science!

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Join­ing a com­mu­nity of grad­u­ate stu­dent Siebel Schol­ars, Paty is now part of The Siebel Energy Insti­tute, global con­sor­tium for inno­v­a­tive and col­lab­o­ra­tive energy research.
The Insti­tute funds coop­er­a­tive and inno­v­a­tive research grants in data ana­lyt­ics, includ­ing sta­tis­ti­cal analy­sis and machine learn­ing, to accel­er­ate advance­ments in the safety, secu­rity, reli­a­bil­ity, effi­ciency, and envi­ron­men­tal integrity of mod­ern energy systems.

Paty’s work is on power sys­tems the­ory, includ­ing both ana­lytic work and the devel­op­ment of the SWITCH mod­el­ing tools, and prac­tice, with research foci in the US, Chile, and China, and on basic power sys­tem reli­a­bil­ity, and deep decar­boniza­tion of the sector.

Bravo!

ERG student compiles data on climate change — right outside the President’s window! [Japan’s cherry blossoms signal warmest climate in more than 1,000 years]

From the April 4 Wash­ing­ton Post: and devel­oped by  ERG PhD stu­dent Zeke Hausfather:

For more than 1,000 years, emper­ors, aris­to­crats, gov­er­nors and monks have chron­i­cled the flow­er­ing of Japan’s famed cherry trees in the city of Kyoto. But bloom dates have shifted rad­i­cally ear­lier in recent decades, a sure sign that the region’s cli­mate is warm­ing and warm­ing fast.

Yasuyuki Aono, a pro­fes­sor of envi­ron­men­tal sci­ences at Osaka Pre­fec­ture Uni­ver­sity, has assem­bled a data set that com­piles blossom-​​flowering dates in Kyoto all the way back to 800 A.D. It shows a sud­den and remark­able change in the past 150 to 200 years.

From roughly 800 to 1850, the blos­som flow­er­ing time was fairly sta­ble. While the bloom dates bounced around quite a bit from year to year dur­ing April, the long-​​term aver­age hov­ered between April 10 and April 17 (the 100th to 107th day of the year).

 

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(Invert plot to see the Hockey Stick!)

Make Carbon Pricing a Business Requirement

Check out the video: https://​www​.green​biz​.com/​v​i​d​e​o​/​c​a​r​b​o​n​-​a​c​c​o​u​n​t​i​n​g​-​b​u​s​i​n​e​s​s​-​r​e​q​u​i​r​e​m​ent

Dan Kam­men, pro­fes­sor of energy at the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Berke­ley and a cli­mate adviser to the Obama admin­is­tra­tion, dis­cusses the the poten­tial of a car­bon tax at the recent Clean Energy Min­is­te­r­ial (CEM7) con­fer­ence in San Francisco.

“If we really want to bend the curve to make the tran­si­tion, we need every­one to speak the same lan­guage — not always to agree, but to talk about things in the same way,” said Kam­men. “You just can’t get envi­ron­men­tal­ists and busi­ness lead­ers and elected offi­cials to do that unless we’re valu­ing and pric­ing out the impacts. Car­bon tax will get us there.”

Kam­men con­tends that the U.S. gov­ern­ment could get the car­bon tax ball rolling by mak­ing car­bon account­ing a “busi­ness require­ment” for all fed­eral contracts.

To watch the video: click here.

Here’s Why There’s a Searing Ethiopian Drought Without an Epic Ethiopian Famine

Inter­est­ing piece by Andy Revkin on famines: Amartya Sen was right!

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I hope you’ll read “Is the Era of Great Famine Over,” an Op-​​Ed arti­cle by Alex de Waal, the exec­u­tive direc­tor of the World Peace Foun­da­tion at Tufts Uni­ver­sity, which has a pro­gram track­ing famine trends.

Fil­ing from Ethiopia, which is in the midst of a potent drought but — for a change — not a calami­tous famine, de Waal made these core points: 

How did Ethiopia go from being the world’s sym­bol of mass famines to fend­ing off star­va­tion? Thanks partly to some good for­tune, but mostly to peace, greater trans­parency and pru­dent plan­ning. Ethiopia’s suc­cess in avert­ing another dis­as­ter is con­fir­ma­tion that famine is elec­tive because, at its core, it is an arti­fact and a tool of polit­i­cal repression.

It’s worth stress­ing that last line:

[F]amine is elec­tive because, at its core, it is an arti­fact and a tool of polit­i­cal repression.

Please read the entire arti­cle and con­sider the trend against what has been learned by schol­ars like Joshua Gold­stein and Steven Pinker about death rates from war and vio­lence; declines in deep poverty as shown by Max Roser; and child mor­tal­ity rates from the World Health Organization.

There’s a valu­able deeper dive on global famine trends on the Tufts website.

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The World Peace Foundation at Tufts University has found that governance and democracy are prime factors in cutting famine losses. A “great famine” is defined as one killing at least 100,000 people. Learn more at <a href="http://j.mp/faminetrends">j.mp/faminetrends</a>.

The World Peace Foun­da­tion at Tufts Uni­ver­sity has found that gov­er­nance and democ­racy are prime fac­tors in cut­ting famine losses. A “great famine” is defined as one killing at least 100,000 peo­ple. Learn more at j.mp/faminetrends.Credit World Peace Foundation

Over all, human prospects con­tinue to improve.

Set­backs are nearly always the result of rup­tures in gov­er­nance or unchecked extrem­ism and vio­lence. Click back to Nick Kristof’s sear­ing com­men­tary from South Sudan last year for another exam­ple. Here was his con­clu­sion, even as he wit­nessed peo­ple col­laps­ing on the street:

You might think that what’s needed to end a famine is food. Actu­ally, what’s essen­tial above all is an inter­na­tional push of inten­sive diplo­macy and tar­geted sanc­tions to reach a com­pro­mise peace deal and end the civil war.

While the gen­eral pic­ture is bright­en­ing, trend is not des­tiny, and, of course, the non-​​human world is not doing nearly as well.

But with sus­tained cit­i­zen engage­ment, increased mon­i­tor­ing and trans­parency, more “mun­dane sci­ence” (in the best sense, as con­veyed by Dan Kam­men and Michael Dove) and pres­sure on despots and other bad actors, chances of up-​​side sur­prises remain high.

Post­script | Don’t miss the slide show on the polit­i­cal roots of a host of great famines that accom­pa­nies the de Waal article.

Industry Insight: Hydropower: Building Sustainability into the East African Power Pool

In Africa, hydropower is one of the largest renew­able power con­trib­u­tors to energy gen­er­a­tion, how­ever with cli­mate change wreak­ing havoc across the con­ti­nent, water is becom­ing a scarce com­mod­ity in cer­tain areas.

Dr Daniel M. Kam­men, found­ing direc­tor of the Renew­able and Appro­pri­ate Energy Lab­o­ra­tory (RAEL), and Inter­na­tional Rivers’ Lori Pot­tinger dis­cuss hydropower at length, iden­ti­fy­ing the cli­mate risks and the addi­tion of alter­na­tive renew­able tech­nolo­gies in the East Africa region.

The African energy sec­tor is gen­er­ally speak­ing, under­funded, under-​​capacitated and in some places embat­tled. An esti­mated 70% of Africans have no access to grid-​​based electricity.

Black­outs and energy short­falls are the norm in many places. Given this dif­fi­cult land­scape, tak­ing advan­tage of oppor­tu­ni­ties to increase reli­a­bil­ity, develop local sus­tain­able resources, and sup­port both on– and off-​​grid users is a pow­er­ful oppor­tu­nity not to be missed.

The East African Power Pool (EAPP), which serves 10 coun­tries, is at a crit­i­cal junction.

It has the poten­tial to play a key role in dri­ving energy invest­ments in the region for years to come but its heavy focus on costly large dams – and the lack of analy­sis on the risks that cli­mate change brings to those invest­ments – puts the region at high risk.

The plen­ti­ful renew­able energy resources avail­able to the region in the form of solar, wind, bio­mass and geot­her­mal energy mean that it doesn’t have to be this way.

Hydropower faces cli­mate risks

As cur­rently con­fig­ured, the EAPP will rely heav­ily on some of Africa’s largest most con­tro­ver­sial hydropower dams, includ­ing Ethiopia’s Gibe III Dam on the Omo River, and Grand Ethiopian Renais­sance Dam on the Blue Nile.

Cur­rently, about a quar­ter of elec­tric­ity gen­er­ated in EAPP coun­tries comes from hydropower (higher than the global aver­age but accept­able). Guture invest­ments will cre­ate a much greater depen­dence on hydropower at a time of chang­ing river flows and other cli­mate disruptions.

The EAPP has iden­ti­fied hydropower projects that will almost dou­ble the EAPP’s cur­rent installed capac­ity, which means that an esti­mated 60% of the grid’s power will come from Ethiopian hydropower gen­er­a­tion alone.

Risk analy­sis

Not enough infor­ma­tion exists about the risks involved in hydropower dams in East Africa to jus­tify such heavy growth in hydropower.

The EAPP Mas­ter Plan does not include an analy­sis of the effects of cli­mate change on the regional power strat­egy. It makes no attempt to address the impacts of pos­si­ble droughts on the region’s economy.

The EAPP would be wise to shift its pri­or­i­ties to include a much greater pro­por­tion of renew­able energy sources like solar, geot­her­mal and wind, and to take greater account of cli­mate risks to large hydropower projects.

Bridg­ing the energy divide

Decen­tralised renew­able energy sources are also more appro­pri­ate for bridg­ing East Africa’s large energy divide.

Mini-​​grids and com­mu­nity energy pro­grammes can greatly build local energy access and eco­nomic oppor­tu­nity, which can be the ‘seeds’ of grow­ing regional grids.

The clean, non-​​hydro energy poten­tial of the East African region is vast and devel­op­ing it can lead to strong eco­nomic, social and envi­ron­men­tally ben­e­fi­cial development.

A renew­ables based energy sec­tor can meet the rapidly grow­ing energy needs of the region, mak­ing addi­tional progress in increas­ing energy access, in a way that achieves envi­ron­men­tal sustainability.

Inno­v­a­tive solutions

With so many peo­ple liv­ing off-​​grid in the region, a bal­anced focus on grid-​​connectivity and on pay-​​as-​​you go and other off-​​grid and mini-​​grid clean energy solu­tions is a key step that gov­ern­ments in the region can enable, and that the inter­na­tional aid and busi­ness com­mu­ni­ties can support.

Our recent work on the ‘information-​​energy’ nexus[1] and the strong per­for­mance of pri­vate providers of off-​​grid solar-​​based energy ser­vices (such as M-​​KOPA and Sun­ny­Money) indi­cates that diver­si­fied strate­gies have the poten­tial to build capac­ity to serve all in the east African region.

It has been esti­mated that the region’s solar resource alone is suf­fi­cient to pro­vide the needed energy resources for each nation within the EAPP.

Avail­able non-​​hydro renew­able elec­tric­ity sources account for roughly 80% of the iden­ti­fied hydropower projects in the EAPP Mas­ter Plan.

Leapfrog­ging hydro to a broad base of renew­ables would be far less risky in a chang­ing climate.

Lead­ing by example

A good exam­ple of an energy sec­tor that is already plan­ning for cli­mate risks to hydropower is Kenya. The east African coun­try has increased its per­cent­age of climate-​​safe geot­her­mal elec­tric­ity while reduc­ing its depen­dence on hydropower.

Kenya is on pace to expand its geot­her­mal pro­duc­tion from just over 500MW to over 3,000MW in just a few years.

Geot­her­mal is today the least-​​costly form of on-​​grid gen­er­a­tion in Kenya, with costs as low at 8.5 cents/​kWh, one third of the fos­sil fuel costs.

The geot­her­mal story in Kenya is not unique. Wind could rival geot­her­mal as a growth indus­try. New dis­cov­er­ies (such as the incred­i­bly rich wind resource at Lake Turkana).

Chal­lenges do remain, with the off-​​grid pop­u­la­tion and expan­sion of energy pro­grammes for the poor being key issues (but where efforts from the grow­ing pri­vate sec­tor pay-​​as-​​you-​​go pro­grammes of M-​​KOPA, Sun­ny­Money and oth­ers are mak­ing progress).

At the indus­trial level, how­ever, the expan­sion of clean, on-​​grid energy can also bring about new indus­trial potential.

Even while tak­ing the pru­dent step to dra­mat­i­cally reduce the planned use of hydropower, Kenya is plan­ning a new indus­trial cor­ri­dor built around clean geot­her­mal, wind, and solar energy.

What is tak­ing place in Kenya can and should hap­pen else­where in the region.

About the authors:

This edi­to­r­ial piece is based on the find­ings of “A Clean Energy Vision for East Africa: Plan­ning for Sus­tain­abil­ity, Reduc­ing Cli­mate Risks and Increas­ing Energy Access” (2015) by Daniel Kammen.

Dan Kammen

Dr Daniel M. Kam­men is the Class of 1935 Dis­tin­guished Pro­fes­sor of Energy at the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Berke­ley, with par­al­lel appoint­ments in the Energy and Resources Group, the Gold­man School of Pub­lic Pol­icy, and the Depart­ment of Nuclear Engineering.

He was appointed by then Sec­re­tary of State Hilary Clin­ton in April 2010 as the first energy fel­low of the new Envi­ron­ment and Cli­mate Part­ner­ship for the Amer­i­cas (ECPA) initiative.

Lori Pottinger

Lori Pot­tinger, works on the Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and Africa Pro­gramme at Inter­na­tional Rivers. Pot­tinger has worked on Africa’s rivers since the 1990’s. “A healthy river is such a remark­able thing, it gives so much to so many peo­ple; we’re work­ing across the con­ti­nent to keep Africa’s rivers healthy and flow­ing. If I wasn’t work­ing on rivers, I’d be doing what I can to save the world’s oceans and coral reefs.”

[1] Alstone, P., Ger­shen­son, D. and Kam­men, D. M. (2015) “Decen­tral­ized energy sys­tems for clean elec­tric­ity access“, Nature Cli­mate Change5, 305 – 314.  DOI: 10.1038/NCLIMATE2512

Forbes Article: Lower Carbon = Higher Profit

http://​www​.forbes​.com/​s​i​t​e​s​/​j​e​f​f​m​c​m​a​h​o​n​/​2​0​1​5​/​0​4​/​1​6​/​l​o​w​e​r​-​c​a​r​b​o​n​-​h​i​g​h​e​r​-​p​r​o​f​it/

Lower Car­bon = Higher Profit

Car­bon emis­sions sig­nal inef­fi­ciency in a sys­tem, an energy expert said in Chicago this week, so reduc­ing emis­sions usu­ally means increas­ing savings.

In house­hold after house­hold and small busi­nesses and schools, we’ve con­sis­tently found that car­bon– or water-​​saving oper­a­tions are good for the bot­tom line,” Daniel Kam­men, a pro­fes­sor of energy at the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia Berke­ley, told about 150 peo­ple at the Uni­ver­sity of Chicago’s Ori­en­tal Insti­tute on Monday.

Kam­men is backed up, in part, by a study he pub­lished in 2011 in the Jour­nal of Envi­ron­men­tal Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy. Kam­men and co-​​author Chris Jones found that a 20 per­cent reduc­tion in car­bon emis­sions resulted in $2,100 per year in poten­tial finan­cial sav­ings for a household.

What we found, no sur­prise, is that actions that save you on car­bon almost always save you on money,” Kam­men said. “Because after all those emis­sions are a waste.”

The sav­ings hinge on a num­ber of actions that reduce waste: change diet, telecom­mute, take tran­sit, eco-​​drive, main­tain vehi­cles, ride bike, turn up ther­mo­stat, turn down ther­mo­stat, reduce fly­ing, trade in vehi­cles, use com­pact flu­o­res­cent bulbs, line-​​dry clothes, use Energy–Star refrig­er­a­tor.

Aver­age finan­cial sav­ings are fre­quently greater than $100 per met­ric ton of CO2e con­served for this set of actions,” the authors write. Some of these actions require an upfront investment—$4,800 for the aver­age Amer­i­can household—which the authors say will pay back in 2.6 years and then con­tinue to pay off.

The great­est sav­ings come from changes in diet—$850 per year on average—which entail giv­ing up carbon-​​intensive meat and dairy prod­ucts and “non-​​essential food items.” The authors urge a reduc­tion in overeat­ing, from 2,500 calo­ries per day to 2,200, and con­tend that dietary change will not only reduce car­bon and save money but com­bat health prob­lems asso­ci­ated with obesity.

The authors mod­eled these changes for about 2,000 types of house­holds in 78 dif­fer­ent regions of the U.S.

Dietary change pro­duced the most dra­matic effect across all regions, but other changes showed more variability.

For exam­ple, they com­pare a two-​​person house­hold earn­ing $90,000 in the San Fran­cisco Bay Area (House­hold A) to a five-​​person house­hold earn­ing $50,000 in St. Louis, MO (House­hold B):

The Car­bon foot­print of house­hold A is dom­i­nated by emis­sions from motor vehi­cles and air travel. Emis­sions from house­hold energy are about half of the U.S. aver­age due largely to the rel­a­tively clean fuel mix of California’s elec­tric­ity grid and mod­er­ate San Fran­cisco Bay Area cli­mate. The house­hold has essen­tially no emis­sions from cool­ing. Emis­sions from goods and ser­vices out­strip emis­sions from food due to the household’s rel­a­tively high income and low num­ber of house­hold mem­bers. The total 20% foot­print reduc­tion poten­tial mod­eled cor­re­sponds to about $2100/​yr in poten­tial finan­cial sav­ings. As could be expected, trans­porta­tion dom­i­nates total car­bon foot­print reduc­tion poten­tial (8 out of 10 tCO2e/​yr total).

The car­bon foot­print of house­hold B is dom­i­nated by emis­sions from elec­tric­ity. This is largely a prod­uct of high emis­sions per kWh of elec­tric­ity in St. Louis and larger than aver­age heat­ing and cool­ing demands. Emis­sions from food also out­strip direct and indi­rect emis­sions from motor vehi­cles, due to the large house­hold size. This mod­est income fam­ily has lower than aver­age emis­sions from goods and ser­vices. The house­hold can save $1400 per year and reduce its car­bon foot­print by almost 3 tCO2e/​yr by reduc­ing overeat­ing and waste from food and reduc­ing the amount of meat, dairy, and nonessen­tial food items con­sumed. Fur­ther sav­ings of $500 per year and 3 tCO2e/​yr can be obtained by increas­ing the family’s aver­age fuel effi­ciency from 20 mpg to 25 mpg, reduc­ing total vehi­cle miles trav­eled and prac­tic­ing fuel-​​saving dri­ving and vehi­cle main­te­nance habits. The house­hold has vir­tu­ally no emis­sions from air travel. Car­bon foot­print sav­ings of 2 tCO2e can be achieved by adjust­ing the ther­mo­stat, replac­ing light bulbs, and line-​​drying clothes; how­ever, finan­cial sav­ings are less than $200/​yr due to rel­a­tively low energy prices in the state of Missouri.

The dif­fer­ences lead the authors to sug­gest that pol­i­cy­mak­ers tai­lor poli­cies and incen­tives to dif­fer­ent objec­tives in dif­fer­ent regions instead of try­ing to craft a blan­ket pol­icy for all.

Kam­men spoke Mon­day in Chicago at a forum spon­sored by the Uni­ver­sity of Chicago Cen­ter for Inter­na­tional Stud­ies and other cam­pus groups. He told me in a sub­se­quent email that Berkeley’s Renew­able and Appro­pri­ate Energy Lab­o­ra­tory, which he founded, has also mod­eled car­bon sav­ings for busi­ness and indus­try, with sim­i­lar results.

Some com­pa­nies have caught on to the finan­cial value of sustainability—Kammen men­tioned Pepsi and Walmart—but most have not because “the data isn’t widely out there yet.”

Jones and Kam­men used the data to build cal­cu­la­tors that enable indi­vid­u­als and busi­ness own­ers to com­pare their car­bon foot­print to their neigh­bors and com­peti­tors. When faced with com­par­isons, Kam­men said, peo­ple will often reduce car­bon emis­sions voluntarily.

For exam­ple, the first brewer to use their cal­cu­la­tor was Sierra Nevada Brew­ing Com­pany, which has long empha­sized sustainability.

The next brewer said, ‘This data has to be wrong, no one can be this green.’ So we pro­vided a lit­tle more infor­ma­tion, they fig­ured out which brewer it was, and a num­ber of oth­ers decided to catch up. They only did it because a peer com­peti­tor had done it,” Kam­men said.

This process of egging each other on is an area of behav­ioral eco­nom­ics for which all of these energy teams have been scour­ing the land­scape for behav­ioral econ­o­mists who want to play.”

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