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April 2007


Marc Genty

Questions and suggestions from the staff to management may be submitted in confidence to the Delphi Coordinator. They should be submitted in written form, preferably via interoffice mail in a sealed envelope marked confidential. They must be signed. Detailed procedures for submitting questions are given in the UCAR Policies and Procedures Manual, section 4-1-2, and on the Delphi Web site. Staff Notes Monthly publishes questions and answers of general interest to staff, and the Delphi Web site has a log of all questions submitted since 1995.

Delphi Question: Carbon offsets, energy conservation, socially responsible investing

Delphi Question #571 (received January 26): Among the sources of atmospheric carbon dioxide for which I am directly responsible, business travel is the only one that I have very little control over. My job at NCAR requires me to travel internationally from time to time, and this is one of my largest sources of climate-changing pollution.

I recently learned about a Web site where I can calculate the approximate CO2 impact of my international business travel and then purchase “carbon offsets” that are used to support the construction of new wind farms. (See www.nativeenergy.com/travel.) The typical cost to offset a round trip to Europe is about $30.

I purchased the offsets personally for my most recent business trip, but I wonder if UCAR/NCAR would consider either reimbursing travelers for this type of expense, or providing a checkbox on the travel authorization form that would allow travelers to request carbon offsets for their flights, which could then be purchased in bulk by the organization annually.

Response (received March 2): Thanks for your suggestion. Similar suggestions have occurred in the past.

Unfortunately, the purchase of carbon offsets would not be an allowable cost under our federal government funding (Office of Management and Budget Circular A-122), so it would not be a reimbursable expense. UCAR could legally use its private funds for this purpose, but these funds are very limited and are used to support a number of key NCAR and UOP programs and benefits.

Also, supporting worthwhile causes such as this particular one would open up requests for contributions to other such programs and charities, and our private funds could not support all of these requests. Instead, we suggest that employees contribute to those environmental and charitable programs and activities that they feel most strongly about.

—Katy Schmoll, vice president
Finance and Administration

Delphi Question #572 (received February 5): Delphi Question #564 was about going solar to reduce our energy prices. I want to know why we don’t have a more aggressive conservation program. There is so much we could be doing to save electricity and reduce the carbon emissions released into the atmosphere.

Why are we not promoting turning off lights, monitors, and computers? There are lights left on for hours in vacant conference rooms and offices and in sporadically used supply closets. Some computer monitors are left on over nights and weekends. Why are the ML displays (and the spotlights shining on them) being left on for hours after the tourists are gone? Why are those photo screens by the ML Main Seminar Room also being left on for hours after the building is closed to the public? Why are the meeting announcement monitors at CG and FL being left on 24/7? Why are there some places at FL0 that do no have light switches so that lights could be turned out when no one is in the room or when the sun is shining brightly? Is there a committee that works on making our organization greener?

Response (received March 6): Thanks to the questioner for bringing up these areas of environmental stewardship. They will be addressed where feasible (for example, re-wiring FL0 may not be possible). The questioner obviously has a keen eye for “green issues” and is encouraged to communicate directly with John Pereira (ext. 1128) or Steve Sadler (ext. 8550). Early notification to John or Steve allows them to address these issues sooner rather than later.

UCAR tries to promote and act in a responsibly green manner, and we will be doing more. The Safety and Site Services director has created and funded a pilot position for a part-time environmental stewardship coordinator. The position, which is expected to be filled in April, will allow an expert to concentrate on environmental stewardship programs. We hope you and others will work closely with this person.

UCAR has an existing volunteer environmental stewardship committee. The committee has undertaken and completed many important activities. The new coordinator will use this committee, which is an integral part of our environmental stewardship effort. Also, the Health, Environment and Safety committee has become more active in environmental stewardship issues and has recently engaged Eco-Cycle in its meetings.

We can always do better, and we will. I thank the questioner for pointing out some areas for improvement. Big things are getting ready to happen in the arena of environmental stewardship with the arrival of a new coordinator. Staff should stay tuned for what promises to be an exciting and progressive year in environmental stewardship. Thank you very much for your question.

—Steve Sadler, director
Safety and Site Services

Delphi Question #573 (received March 29): Would you please address why UCAR provides employees concerned about socially responsible investing through TIAA-CREF only one option, the slow-growth Social Choice account? TIAA-CREF also offers the Social Choice Equity fund, which since inception has had a return about 50% higher (15.89% vs. 10.01%).

Since inception (10/1/02), the Social Choice Equity fund has returned 15.89%. (1-yr = 10.84%, 3-yr = 9.68%) See www.tiaa-cref.org/performance/retirement/profiles/1617.html.

Since inception (3/1/90), the Social Choice account has returned only 10.01%. (1-yr = 8.67%, 3-yr = 7.28%, 5-yr = 6.96%, 10-yr = 7.50%) See www.tiaa-cref.org/performance/retirement/profiles/1005.html.

Response (received April 3): There are a couple of reasons that UCAR employees have not had access to all of the investment options offered by TIAA-CREF.

The recordkeeping system that TIAA-CREF used could not support additional options. TIAA-CREF recently upgraded that system to allow more options. UCAR transitioned to the new system in mid-year and the process was completed in the fourth quarter of 2006.

There are some fiduciary and legal requirements that must be completed in order to change the list of investment options offered under the plan. An updated plan document was approved by the UCAR Board of Trustees this past February and custodial/recordkeeping agreements are undergoing legal review. Once the agreements are completed, we will begin a fiduciary review of all investment options for the plan. We expect to begin that review this summer. The risk and return on various investment options will be analyzed. I am sure that the returns on the two social choice funds will be compared during this analysis.

I expect we will see changes in the investment options later this year.

—Bob Roesch, director
Human Resources

In this issue...

Researchers chase pollution plumes across Pacific Ocean during PACDEX

EOL researchers design new instrument for detecting trace gases

Friends of UCAR enhances science education, outreach

Remembering Barry White and Mark Uris

“Center Green Idol” coming to Spring Fling

Delphi Questions

Just One Look

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