Tag Archives: Texas

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Best Little Green Bank in Texas

The 1978 cast of  TV Show “Dallas”

Dallas Does Green?

What if there was a bank that went beyond compliance to do “the right thing” even when no one was watching? What if that bank cared about the environment so much that it made environmentally sustainable business loans priority? What if that bank was focused on building the local economy by supporting community jobs and socially responsible non-profits?

And what if that bank put people (small business, customers and the community) before profits? What if that bank’s vision for employees included job fulfillment by incorporating deeper meaning and purpose in their daily tasks?

Imagine that this bank is long-term focused and makes ethical practices core policy not just a PR show. Imagine that this little bank is not so little and has expanded to 13 branches throughout the state. And since you are daydreaming already, why not imagine the banking chain has grown 59% right through the recession and manages assets exceeding $1billion.

Now imagine this not-so-little community focused, environmentally sustainable banking chain is smack in the middle of Texas oil country! You can’t? Well, think again…Because, it’s real!

The Green Bank was birthed in early 2007 after a merger between Green Bancorp and Redstone Bank. Opening its doors at the start of the financial crisis, Green Bank’s model was formed on getting “right” what went wrong in the rest of America’s banking industry.

While “profit-at-any-cost” was the operating strategy for West Coast banking giants like Washington Mutual, Wachovia and Indy Mac and East Coast mammoths like Citigroup and Bank of America, Green Bank emerged with a socially and environmentally conscious model fit for the 21st century.

It might be hard to believe that this model exists not in Burlington, Portland or Boulder, but in a dozen communities in Texas, including Dallas. We have our eye on this little green bank. It just might be the best (only) little green bank in Texas. We will keep you posted!

From Green Bank:

OUR PROMISE

We are committed to behave in a manner that ensures the fair treatment of our stakeholders and to be a company that routinely “does the right thing.”

We make these promises:

  • To behave in an ethical manner in all transactions and interactions.
  • To act in environmentally and socially-responsible ways to support and strengthen the communities where we operate.

OUR MISSION

Green Bank is equally committed to all of our stakeholders – customers, employees, communities and shareholders. We believe each of our constituencies is best served when all are served. Therefore, our mission is to:

  • Help our clients achieve economic success and financial security.
  • Create a place where our employees can learn, grow, prosper and be fulfilled in their work.
  • Make the communities where we operate better places to live and work.
  • Optimize the long-term return to our shareholders, while providing a safe and sound investment in a socially responsible and resource-efficient enterprise.

GOING FOR THE GREEN

A profitable partnership with the Earth Green Bank. In 2004, when we chose Green Bank as our name, environmentalism wasn’t part of our mindset. The “green movement” was starting to gain traction, but was viewed with skepticism by many. The scope of environmental destruction was undeniable, but solving it would require resources far beyond anything individuals alone could offer.

Our color choice was really just a simple branding idea. We wanted a name that would be simple and memorable, one that would get us noticed among a clutter of painfully generic names. Green happened to be the color of money, so that was good. But the idea that it might appeal to environmentally-minded folks was almost an afterthought.

When we opened our doors, our name perhaps seemed odd. Today it doesn’t. What happened? Icebergs melted. Climate change was finally recognized by the scientific community and folks on the street. And the green movement shifted from the fringe to the mainstream.

And, at Green Bank, something else changed. Finally, we got it. Not because environmentalism became popular, but because, it became real to us. While the scientists continue to argue whether climate change is primarily a by-product of human activity or not, it became clear to us that tailpipe and smokestack clouds are bad and resources of every sort are finite.

GREEN GOES VIRAL

While we were waking up to these issues, a sense of urgency was reaching a critical mass worldwide. Suddenly, it didn’t seem futile to be part of an initiative that promoted environmental responsibility. We could, in fact, help save those oceans we once saw as a tragedy beyond repair. We could reduce waste and make a difference – because the rest of the world would be doing the same.

And businesses, the good and bad ground zero of environmental change started incorporating the environment into strategic thinking. Why? Because customers were asking for it and employees were embracing it. It was smart public relations and political insurance. It was the right thing to do. And – here’s the fun part for any business – it would save money.

The green pathway for businesses was opening up because environmental responsibility was becoming embedded in the core values of its owners, its customers, and its employees. It became clear that these businesses would be replacing resource-wasting assets with resource-neutral assets. And that’s when real change would begin to bear fruit.

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Our goal is for Green Bank to be the bank that local businesses and consumers turn to first for good financial solutions that are environmentally responsible. That combination of customer attributes in Green Bank’s local markets is growing at the same rapid pace that environmental responsibility is imbedding in everyday core values. We want to be their ground zero. As they grow, Green Bank grows. That’s good for shareholders. That’s good for our customers. That’s good for our employees. That’s good for the Earth.

 

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Keystone XL Politics

By Good-b Associate Editor, John Bain

A few months ago, it seemed like President Obama had made himself clear on the question of the Keystone XL pipeline:  No.

His response was precipitated by a wave of protest from environmentalists – for Obama, a key voting bloc. The president’s heart seems to be in it this time – a few days ago he personally lobbied members of Congress to oppose the pipeline.

But we have to keep in mind this is an election year. With a fierce race ahead of him, will he hold to his promise to keep Keystone XL from  being built?

I’m  not so sure. The issue on everyone’s mind right now is the economy, and it’s easy for Big Oil types to hawk Keystone XL as a panacea for our joblessness woes, with some supporters claiming the pipeline could directly create 20,000 jobs.

Never mind that this claim  is probably false – this is politics, where appearances matter above all else. It’s extremely easy to paint the Obama administration’s opposition as a typical anti-business Democratic policy.  In fact, to many voters it might make Obama look weak for supporting the abstract notion of environmentalism  over the very real concerns of hundreds of thousands of jobless Americans.

Even more worrisome is the fact that the political and cultural winds of change seem to be favoring the Pipeline more and more. As a child of the ‘90s, it makes my heart heavy to report that Bill Clinton himself is endorsing Keystone – and that’s a voice I, as a young voter, might consider actually listening to.  GOP nominee-apparent Mitt Romney is a supporter as well, and don’t doubt for a moment that if he gets the nomination he’ll make the pipeline a central issue on which to challenge the president.

A recent Pew poll even showed that 66 percent of Americans support Keystone XL… and also stronger environmental legislation. May I remind you that there have not been two more antithetical concepts since… ever

From a purely philosophical, environmentalist standpoint, the proposed pipeline is incredibly problematic. Tar sands oil production is extremely emissions intensive, and if Keystone XL were to be constructed it would ramp up this destructive industry considerably. To people who are already environmentalists, this is the only argument that matters; they’re already convinced Keystone XL would literally be the most catastrophic thing to ever happen to the planet.

However, I think there’s also a solid economic case to be made against the construction of the pipeline. This is the line of reasoning the president should use in debates to gain crossover appeal.

First of all, you need to consider the issue in context. The pipeline is supposed to transfer almost a million barrels of oil per day from Alberta, Canada to Port Arthur, Texas. Currently, Canada is our top oil supplier. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently went on a trip to China to discuss importation of Canadian oil to Asia.

Here the argument that Keystone XL will actually raise gas prices gains some cachet. As it stands, Canada has no easy way to get oil to the growing Asian economies. If Keystone XL is constructed, all of a sudden our largest trading partner will be spoiled for choice, with dozens of other nations knocking on its door to get a slice of the oil pie. Once this glut of demand happens, Canadian oil interests will be free to raise prices. Why wouldn’t they?

It’s natural for Canada to want this corridor through the United States so it can participate more fully in a world marketplace that is increasingly non-U.S.-centric.  So it follows that Keystone XL would be a great thing for Canada.  Not so much for the United States, where gas is already fast approaching five dollars a gallon.

Let’s go from  global Realpolitik back to philosophy, though. There’s yet another reason why Keystone XL will be un-American:  the construction of the pipeline would involve the seizure of large tracts of land from private citizens under the doctrine of eminent domain. Where do you think the land for 2,000+ miles of pipeline is going to come from? Activist judges have been speaking out against this sort of abuse for some time, but the fight is ongoing.

What’s more American than a bunch of Texan homesteaders fighting to keep their land? For that matter, what’s more American than that vast, varied stretch of land that’s about to have its ecosystem(s) unjustifiably ruined by a giant lead pipe? Answer: nothing.  Come on, America – I know it sounds tempting, but Keystone XL is the worst idea this continent has seen in a century.

Next post: American Prestige and the Green Revolution

Previous Post on Keystone: Keystone XL: Pipeline to the End of the World?

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John Bain is Good-b’s  senior Green Blogger and Associate Editor of Good-b. 

 

 

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Keystone XL: Pipeline to the End of the World?

Good-b Green Blogger John Bain reports from Prague in the Czech Republic (academic sabbatical) on what could be one of this century’s greatest ecological disasters.

Something big is happening in America.

People from all walks of life are taking to the streets to voice their indignation at a financial system that favors the few over the many. The President has responded with enthusiasm. Huge changes seem just over the horizon.

But the most decisive act of the drama that has been 2011 is about to take place beneath your feet. If you live in Nebraska, that is.

I’m talking about the Keystone XL pipeline, a multibillion-dollar project proposed by a Canadian oil company that would stretch from Alberta, Canada to the U.S. state of Texas. The pipeline would cut a huge swath across the American heartland and pump 700,000 gallons of crude a day from the rich Alberta tar sands into homes and businesses all across America.

This would mean a lot of things. An injection of thousands of jobs into our anemic economy, for instance. A lessening of our dependence on foreign oil. And a big high-five from our neighbors to the North.

Here’s the thing: Obama’s got to approve the pipeline since it’s a project from a foreign company crossing into U.S. borders. Dozens of Democrats are pushing for this project, as is the State Department.

Only problem? The pipeline, if constructed, will be one of the most environmentally harmful structures in the history of humanity. Several have referred to this moment as the “tipping point” that will decide whether global warming progresses to unbearable levels.

So the fate of the world is in Obama’s hands. And perhaps you were expecting him to vacillate, to consider, to remain indecisive.  It’s worked before for him – sort of. But on this one issue, he’s going to announce a final decision at the end of November. And all signs point to “go.”  Twenty years after the Cold War, an American president is about to push the little red button that just might lead to the end of the natural world.

Why is Keystone XL such an environmentally irresponsible idea? Well, let’s start with the fact that tar sand extraction carries with it a carbon footprint 15 to 40 percent higher than normal fuel.

If you’re curious about what this will do in terms of the big picture, check out this New Yorker article about a climate-change model that takes into account our increasing use of “unconventional” oil-based fuels (tar sands, oil shales, and the like) as “normal” oil runs out. The researchers in this case conclude that this new dependency could add “between fifty and four hundred gigatons of carbon to the atmosphere by 2100”.

Consider the news that last year’s 30-gigaton emissions were the worst in history.

To put that number in perspective, consider that that’s already almost 15ppm atmospheric CO2 (1 part-per-million = 2.13 gigatons) a year. Consider that for most of human history (up until 1850 or so) we’d been hovering in the upper 200s, and as of 2011 we’re approaching 400.

Many scientists are already saying that some amount of global warming is already inevitable, even if we were to turn back the clock and return to a hunter-gatherer society around the year 2000.

Now realize that Keystone XL, by many estimates, is poised to add around 200ppm atmospheric carbon within its lifetime.

If you happen to live in the Arctic, you may remember looking up to see the record-breaking hole in the ozone layer scientists found there last year. Do we really want to fan the flames here? No global-warming pun intended, of course!

Sigh. Back down to Earth – stuff that amounts to petty politics in comparison to the above, but extremely significant nonetheless.

Let’s remember that the existing, much smaller pipeline has already experienced 12 spills in as many months. And we’re trusting these same people to construct a pipeline that crosses the Ogallala Aquifer, one of the largest aquifers in the United States and source of fully 30 percent of our irrigation water?

The economic benefits of the pipeline touted by pro-XLers are also being cast in doubt. For instance, the pipeline is projected to provide 5 percent of our oil needs – a far cry from true “energy independence”. Those “thousands of jobs” I mentioned earlier? Mostly short-term construction work, with thousands upon thousands once again unemployed as soon as the 10-year project is finished.

Speaking of petty politics, there’s a pretty good chance the whole thing was set up by corrupt lobbyists. Recently released e-mails reveal a sort of “gentleman’s agreement” between lobbyists and the State Department to approve the pipeline. It’s a shame the name “Climategate” is already taken.

But the worst is yet to come, really. If Obama approves the pipeline, he’ll be opening the doors to a whole new era of oil dependence, a next-generation culture of drill-baby-drill. Even if Keystone were to free us from the burden of importing oil from the Middle East, it would do nothing to break our society’s continuing addiction to oil.

The worst aspect of the project may not even be found in its own harmful qualities. We should fear, rather, the fact that it’s setting back the clean-energy movement a good twenty years. Consider that wind and solar power already need government subsidies to be economically viable for business. Is a massive influx of cheap oil going to help change that?

And you know what? Very few people care, in the grand scheme of things. Yes, there were some large protests a while ago, but post-#Occupy most of us seem to have forgotten about the issue completely. The Middle East is going democratic, Wall Street’s Zuccotti Park looks like Woodstock – who cares about another big ol’ pipeline in the Midwest?

Just enough, it would seem. The White House recently unveiled “We The People”, a revolutionary system of online petitions that forces the government to review policy on any issue that garners 5,000 e-signatures. Four of the top ten have something to do with legalizing marijuana. That’s real productive, guys. Another one suggests removing “In God We Trust” from U.S. currency. Very constitutional and all that – but aren’t there bigger things to worry about?

We can take heart, though, in the fact that there is at least one petition made by serious-minded people for a real cause – “Reject the Keystone XL Pipeline”. And as of right now, it has 6,500 signatures – well above the magic number. If Obama doesn’t throw the whole project away in disgust after seeing the first few entries, this will end up on his desk.

Let’s hope he makes the right decision.

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