Emissions Change Starts at Top
Some of the largest companies in America are also those leading the charge toward a more sustainable future, according to a joint report by Calvert Research, WWF, CDP, and Ceres.
Today’s infographic comes from Fortune’s Nicolas Rapp, who used this data to visualize the CO2 emissions saved by 56 of the Fortune top 100 firms. In the graphic, each company’s CO2 savings are represented by an equivalent mass of coal not burned.
Big Companies, Big Goals
Nearly half (49%) of Fortune 500 companies in 2016 set targets to increase renewable energy sourcing, improve energy efficiency, or reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs).
Over the course of the year, 190 of these companies managed to report a total $3.7 billion in cost savings thanks to some 80,000 emissions-reducing projects. That’s roughly equal to the impact of taking 45 coal-fired power plants offline.
Computing Giants Using Power Responsibly
Apple has done more than any other company on the Fortune list to reduce their environmental impact, saving the equivalent emissions of 35 billion pounds of burned coal. This alone would be enough to meet the year-round power consumption needs of 9.7 million homes – more than in the entirety of New York state.
What types of initiatives are they implementing to make these kinds of efforts?
According to their 2017 Sustainability Report, 96% of Apple’s electricity comes from renewable sources, including hydroelectric and solar. The company also recently issued $1 billion in “green bonds”, the proceeds of which are to be used in eco-friendly projects. This is in addition to an existing issue of $1.5 billion of green bonds from 2016.
On the other hand, Microsoft is focused on energy efficiency, with the bulk of its work going towards improving the efficiency of data centers and buildings. As of 2016, roughly 44% of the electricity used by Microsoft data centers originates from wind, solar, and hydro energy sources.
Solar Power Shines for Big Box Retailers
Walmart, the largest brick and mortar retailer in the U.S., is also one of the biggest corporate users of solar power in the country. In 2005, Walmart’s former CEO, Lee Scott, set goals for the company’s store network to be powered entirely with renewable energy.
Though they have not met this goal yet, Walmart’s adoption of solar has reduced its energy costs per square foot of retail floor space by 9% chainwide. Other companies with large installations of onsite solar panels include Prologis, Apple, Costco, Kohl’s, and IKEA.
Are Clear Skies Ahead?
With the impending review of the Clean Power Plan’s role in American energy policy, the onus on large and powerful corporations to minimize their environmental impact is now greater than ever. Though we can already see the massive scale on which these firms have been able to improve their carbon footprints, even the equivalent of 35 billion pounds of burned coal is just the tip of the iceberg.
Mapped: Every Power Plant in the United States
What sources of power are closest to you, and how has this mix changed over the last 10 years? See every power plant in the U.S. on this handy map.
This Map Shows Every Power Plant in the United States
Every year, the United States generates 4,000 million MWh of electricity from utility-scale sources.
While the majority comes from fossil fuels like natural gas (32.1%) and coal (29.9%), there are also many other minor sources that feed into the grid, ranging from biomass to geothermal.
Do you know where your electricity comes from?
The Big Picture View
Today’s series of maps come from Weber State University, and they use information from the EPA’s eGRID databases to show every utility-scale power plant in the country.
Use the white slider in the middle below to see how things have changed between 2007 and 2016:
The biggest difference between the two maps is the reduced role of coal, which is no longer the most dominant energy source in the country. You can also see many smaller-scale wind and solar dots appear throughout the appropriate regions.
Here’s a similar look at how the energy mix has changed in the United States over the last 70 years:
Up until the 21st century, power almost always came from fossil fuels, nuclear, or hydro sources. More recently, we can see different streams of renewables making a dent in the mix.
Maps by Source
Now let’s look at how these maps look by individual sources to see regional differences more clearly.
Here’s the map only showing fossil fuels.
The two most prominent sources are coal (black) and natural gas (orange), and they combine to make up about 60% of total annual net generation.
Now here’s just nuclear on the map:
Nuclear is pretty uncommon on the western half of the country, but on the Eastern Seaboard and in the Midwest, it is a major power source. All in all, it makes up about 20% of the annual net generation mix.
Finally, a look at renewable energy:
Hydro (dark blue), wind (light blue), solar (yellow), biomass (brown), and geothermal (green) all appear here.
Aside from a few massive hydro installations – such as the Grand Coulee Dam in Washington State (19 million MWh per year) – most renewable installations are on a smaller scale.
Generally speaking, renewable sources are also more dependent on geography. You can’t put geothermal in an area where there is no thermal energy in the ground, or wind where there is mostly calm weather. For this reason, the dispersion of green sources around the country is also quite interesting to look at.
See all of the above, as well as Hawaii and Alaska, in an interactive map here.
The Periodic Table of Commodity Returns
This unique chart shows the performance of individual commodities over the last decade – see commodity returns in 2018, and how they compared to previous years.
Periodic Table of Commodity Returns (2019 Edition)
Commodities are an interesting asset class to watch.
In certain years, all commodities will move in price together in an obvious and correlated fashion. This is a representation of the cyclical characteristics of commodity markets, in which macroeconomic factors align to create a tide that lifts or sinks all boats.
At the same time, however, each individual commodity is incredibly unique with its own specific set of supply and demand circumstances. In the years when these supply or demand crunches materialize, a certain commodity can surge or crash in price, separating itself from the rest of the pack.
A Decade of Commodity Returns
Today’s visualization comes to us from our friends at U.S. Global Investors, and it tracks commodity returns over the last decade.
More specifically, it takes a closer look at individual commodities (i.e. corn, gold, oil, zinc) to show how performance can vary over time. With a quick examination of the graphic, you can see years where commodities moved together – and some years where individual commodities stole the show unexpectedly.
Palladium: A Perennial Winner
The best performing commodity in 2018 was palladium, which found itself up 18.6% – just enough to edge out corn, which jumped up 17.9% in price last year.
Interestingly, palladium has also been the best performing commodity over the 10-year period as well:
Palladium has finished in first place in four of the last 10 years, including in 2017 and 2018 – it’s also impressive to note that palladium has only had negative returns twice in the last decade (2011, 2015).
A Crude Awakening
The worst performing commodity in 2018 was crude oil, which fell -24.8% in price.
Like palladium, this wasn’t a unique occurrence: crude has actually been the worst performing commodity investment over the last decade:
As you can see, crude oil has been the worst (or second worst) commodity in three of the last five years.
Further, as our chart on how all assets performed in 2018 shows, crude oil was outperformed by every other asset class, and the energy sector had the poorest performance out of all S&P 500 sectors last year.
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