Friday, December 5, 2008

Banking on the environment.

Bleatings from EnviRambo.

Yesterday I ran across an interesting tidbit about Bank of America. Did you know they have a coal policy? A coal policy. Why in the world would a bank need a coal policy? As America's largest retail bank, Bank of America lends out a lot of money! A lot of money to profitable businesses, like energy companies, who get their power from coal. As any successful business, they realize opportunities for future growth and future profits. Let's just say Bank of America is seeing a whole new kind of green.

Some excerpts from their website:

Bank of America believes we can be both sustainable and profitable, and we want to play a role in helping to lead the way into this new, sustainable and profitable era.

The primary driver of our environmental commitment is the potential for profit and economic growth, and today those powerful motivators are manifested throughout our organization:

The changes necessary to achieve this goal require capital and resources, areas where Bank of America can play a productive - and profitable - role.

And, as a corporation, we are taking full advantage of the business opportunities created by "green" economic growth.
With their new commitment to "green" (being whichever definition you choose) Bank of America has zeroed in on coal. Specifically, the extraction of coal known as mountain top removal.

"Bank of America is particularly concerned about surface mining conducted through mountain top removal in locations such as central Appalachia. We therefore will phase out financing of companies whose predominant method of extracting coal is through mountain top removal. While we acknowledge that surface mining is economically efficient and creates jobs, it can be conducted in a way that minimizes environmental impacts in certain geographies."

Bank of America is currently involved with eight of the U.S.’s top mountain top removal coal-mining operators, which collectively produce more than 250 million tons of coal each year.

Don't know what mountain top removal is? It's this:

According to Wikipedia, Mountaintop removal mining (MTR), often referred to inside the mining industry as mountaintop mining/valley fills (MTM/VF), is a form of surface mining that involves an extreme topographic change to the summit or summit ridge of a mountain. It is most closely associated with coal mining in the Appalachian Mountains, located in the eastern United States. The process involves using explosives to remove up to 1,000 vertical feet of overburden to gain access to underlying seams of coal. The resulting debris is often scraped into the adjacent drainage valleys in what is called a valley fill.

Think your not affected? Think again. Even if you do not live in the Eastern United States your power company may be buying coal that comes from the mines using mountain top removal.

You can read more about Bank of America's environmental initiatives here. Or, download their full coal policy; it is only one page long. Definitely go to iLoveMountains to learn more about mountain top removal and what you can do about it. You can also read Green Bean's post Forgotten Forest.

What ever people's motivation is for jumping on the green bandwagon, we are going to need all the help we can get. I certainly am all for saving/making a buck if it means making a step towards sustainability. So until that cart looks like a clown car I say climb aboard.


Green Bean said...

Glad to hear that BofA will phase out its financing of companies that do MTR. And I'm with you - the planet needs all the help it can get. I could care less about motivation - only results. Love the clown car reference.

kale for sale said...

I was excited to read this. First because I have a BofA credit card I've been planning on closing for a 'greener' company but now will reconsider. And second after reading Lost Mountain I think about mountain top removal nearly each time I turn a light on. It's impossible not to after reading the book. I also heard this 3 minute vignette on NPR this morning exactly about what you wrote. Thank you for taking the time to post about this.

BerryBird said...

This is fantastic news, indeed! I will absolutely keep Bank of America in mind for future banking and credit needs.

I think mountaintop removal is one of those things that is just so horrifying -- if more people knew about it, things would have to change! The Rainforest Action Network, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and other groups has been campaigning for BofA to make such policy changes for a while now. The corporate decision to move in this direction very well may have hinged on the tour NRDC took executives on in July, where the BofA execs met local activists and were flown over the devastated mountaintops for a close up look.

All my knowledge of the subject comes from reading, and that is horrifying enough... I can only imagine how much a personal experience would haunt someone. I had a flight go through Cincinatti over my Thanksgiving travels, and I was hoping I'd get to see some of this from the air first hand (I'm weird, I know). Alas, the weather was terrible and I had no views from the air -- I was so disappointed.

Thanks for posting about this (and thank for the tip, Katrina)! I really believe most people would be horrified by mountaintop removal, so the more people know, the better.


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