International business briefs: Shell fined millions, Bank announces CSR move, Arctic drilling fight goes on, World must combat energy problems, EPA issues energy challenge

Motiva Enterprises LLC has pleaded guilty to negligently endangering workers at its former refinery in Delaware City, discharging pollutants into the Delaware River and negligently releasing sulfuric acid into the air, both in violation of the Clean Air Act. Pursuant to a plea agreement, Chief US District Judge Sue L. Robinson immediately sentenced Motiva to pay a fine of $10 million and to serve a three-year term of probation. Motiva, an oil refining and retail business owned by Shell Oil Company and Saudi Refining, Inc, refines and markets gasoline to approximately 9,400 Shell-branded and Texaco-branded gasoline stations. Together with Shell Oil Company, Motiva ranks as a leading refiner in the United States. They collectively account for about 10% of the total US refining capacity and a market-leading 13% share of US gasoline sales. In July 2001 a 415,000-gallon capacity tank at Motiva's Delaware City Refinery exploded while containing spent sulfuric acid. The explosion killed one worker and injured numerous others. Spent sulfuric acid from the tank farm spilled into the Delaware River, resulting in thousands of dead fish and crabs.

Innovest Strategic Value Advisors Inc and UBS Investment Bank, the investment-banking arm of financial service giant, UBS AG, announced today that Innovest will be the research provider for the integration of environmental and sustainability criteria in the bank’s overall assessment of investment risk and opportunity. Innovest, a global leader in analysing non-traditional sources of investment risk, will make the research available through a uniquely designed dedicated website available to UBS divisions and executives around the world.

The U.S. Senate’s narrow vote to approval oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in the larger Budget Resolution is a setback, but just the first round in a long fight, according to Rodger Schlickeisen, president of Defenders of Wildlife. The Senate voted 49-51 on Senator Maria Cantwell’s amendment to strip Arctic Refuge drilling from the budget resolution. With the Senate closely divided on such a high-profile issue, including it in the larger budget resolution could seriously damage the prospects of that bill as it passes through the Senate, the House-Senate conference, and final passage in both chambers. Even then, this provision of the budget resolution will not go into effect unless it makes it into the final Budget Reconciliation bill later in the year, which must itself go through the same arduous process as the budget resolution itself. Congress hasn’t managed to complete the budget process in the last two years; if that happens again, drilling backers will be back to square one.

A portfolio of technologies and solutions is needed to help developed and developing nations combat the challenge posed by climate change and move towards sustainable energy systems over the next 50 years, according to the UK government. Energy and Environment Ministers from 20 countries with significant energy needs, agreed at the Roundtable in London that greater energy efficiency, renewables, clean fuel technology and hydrogen and carbon capture and storage would all play an invaluable role in cutting emissions. They heard that moving to a lower carbon economy will boost employment, create economic opportunities, enhance competitiveness and improve air quality. Three new countries – South Korea, Mexico and Canada – signed up to the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP) during the Roundtable. REEEP was officially launched at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002 to provide a platform for cooperation between countries, businesses, NGOs and other organisations.

And finally, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has challenged commercial and institutional building owners to improve energy efficiency by 10% or more to conserve energy, save money and protect the environment. More than 20 states, groups, and businesses joined EPA to issue the Energy Star Challenge, which calls on building owners to assess energy usage; set efficiency improvement goals of 10% or greater and make cost-effective improvements. EPA also honored 13 Energy Star Leaders businesses, school districts, and healthcare institutions from across the country that have improved energy efficiency by implementing the Energy Star assessment and rating system. Commercial and institutional buildings use about US $80 billion worth of energy each year and contribute about 20% of US greenhouse gas emissions. EPA estimates that if each building owner met the challenge, in 10 years they would reduce greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to the emissions from 15 million cars while saving about US $10 billion each year.

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