Apr 23, 2014
Apr 22, 2014
Apr 21, 2014
Ethanol is bad for the environment overall and is increasing the cost of food for 500 million poor people
In 2000, over 90% of the U.S. corn crop went to feed people and livestock, many in undeveloped countries, with less than 5% used to produce ethanol. In 2013, however, 40% went to produce ethanol, 45% was used to feed livestock, and only 15% was used for food and beverage
Apr 20, 2014
The alarming trend can be tracked back three decades, Kutner writes. "The 1980s brought two droughts, a national economy in trouble and a government ban on grain exports to the Soviet Union. Farmers started defaulting on their loans, and by 1985, 250 farms closed every hour. That economic undertow sucked down farms and the people who put their lives into them. . . . Since that crisis, the suicide rate for male farmers has remained high: just under two times that of the general population."
The problem is a global one. Since 1995 more than 270,000 farmers in India have committed suicide, and the suicide rate among French farmers is one every two days, Kutner writes. "In China, farmers are killing themselves to protest the government's seizing of their land for urbanization. In Ireland, the number of suicides jumped following an unusually wet winter in 2012 that resulted in trouble growing hay for animal feed. In the U.K., the farmer suicide rate went up by 10 times during the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in 2001, when the government required farmers to slaughter their animals. And in Australia, the rate is at an all-time high following two years of drought."
Apr 19, 2014
Apr 18, 2014
Apr 17, 2014
Plants could be built in a shipyard, then towed to their destinations five to seven miles offshore, where they would be moored to the seafloor and connected to land by an underwater electric transmission line. The concept takes advantage of two mature technologies: light-water nuclear reactors and offshore oil and gas drilling platforms. Using established designs minimizes technological risks, says Buongiorno, an associate professor of nuclear science and engineering (NSE) at MIT.
Shared via feedly // published on Next Big Future // visit site
Apr 16, 2014
Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Approves Chemical Safety and Drinking Water Protection Act
- Includes a definition of a chemical
- Establishes criteria for exclusions for which a state may apply
- Narrows the scope of the bill to aboveground storage tanks rather than chemical storage facilities
- Adds annual inspections for “high hazard” tanks
- Allows pre-transfer inspections to be performed by third parties
- Encourages states to incorporate existing standards into state programs
- Requires EPA to issue guidance to states on implementation of state programs, and issue public notice and opportunity for comment on this guidance
Apr 14, 2014
- Current CCAI Members
- Family members or dependents of current Wisconsin CCAI Members
- Employees of Companies that are current Wisconsin CCAI Corporate Members
- 1 for James F. Wright
- 1 for David J. Wright
- 1 for James Steffes
Regulators suspect feed ingredient, made from the blood, as a cause in deaths of millions of pigs, but lack concrete proof
The Food and Drug Administration, the Department of Agriculture and pork-industry officials "are examining a range of feed ingredients and manufacturing processes as well as other possible pathways for the virus, like contaminated air or dust particles carried from farm to farm," Newman writes. "Though the evidence is inconclusive, some researchers say that porcine plasma could be spreading the virus from adult pigs that show few symptoms, or that some plasma may have been contaminated in transit."
While come cases of PED are being linked to plasma, it's still not clear if feed is the cause of the illness, Newman writes. Greg Stevenson, a veterinary pathologist at Iowa State University who has studied the virus, told Newman, "Many people think that feed is the most likely suspect. But practically speaking, we have no proof." (Read more)
"Leading enviro journo @Kenwardjr tells how he does it, advises would-be followers to work for newspapers
"It's always critical not to take the government's word for anything," Ward says, quoting muckraker I.F. Stone: "All governments lie." In covering the spill that fouled the water of 300,000 people, "It was especially important to have outside sources and independent experts," he says, including fellow SEJ members who knew experts he didn't.
Asked how he "cuts through emotion and rhetoric" on his Coal Tattoo blog, Ward says he's not sure he does, "and I would say there's absolutely nothing wrong with people being emotional about issues that affect both their health and safety and their ability to provide for their families. Journalists or government officials or industry lobbyists who pretend emotion has no place in these discussions are sending us down the wrong path in covering environmental stories."
Finally, asked for advice yo young journalists who want to cover environmental news, Ward warmed out hearts by saying, "Find a small, community-based and locally owned newspaper in your home state and work there. [He did that.] Avoid Washington and New York. Smaller communities need good journalism, and the stories you find will be much richer – so will your life. Think especially about reporting in and on the place you came from – a sense of place is all too rare in journalism these days. And try to stick around a while, so you can include a sense of history and context in your reporting." (Read more)
On the heels of a study that concluded there was less than a 1% chance that current global warming could be simple fluctuations, U.N. scientists say energy from renewables, nuclear reactors and power plants that use emissions-capture technology needs to triple in order keep climate change within safe limits. From The Washington Post: 'During a news conference Sunday, another co-chair, Rajendra K. Pachauri of India, said the goal of limiting a rise in global temperatures "cannot be achieved without cooperation." He added, "What comes out very clearly from this report is that the high-speed mitigation train needs to leave the station soon, and all of global society needs to get on board."'
Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Los Angeles Times: It's a flu virus so deadly that scientists once halted research on the disease because governments feared it might be used by terrorists to stage a biological attack.
Yet despite the fact that the H5N1 avian influenza has killed 60% of the 650 humans known to be infected since it was identified in Hong Kong 17 years ago, the "bird flu" virus has yet to evolve a means of spreading easily among people.
Now Dutch researchers have found that the virus needs only five favorable gene mutations to become transmissible through coughing or sneezing, like regular flu viruses.
World health officials have long feared that the H5N1 virus will someday evolve a knack for airborne transmission, setting off a devastating pandemic. While the new study suggests the mutations needed are relatively few, it remains unclear whether they're likely to happen outside the laboratory. Please read full and follow Via: Los Angeles Times
Apr 13, 2014
The Guardian has an article on Jeremy Leggett's new book "The Energy of Nations: Risk Blindness and the Road to Renaissance" - Ex govt adviser: "global market shock" from "oil crash" could hit in 2015.
In a new book, former oil geologist and government adviser on renewable energy, Dr. Jeremy Leggett, identifies five "global systemic risks directly connected to energy" which, he says, together "threaten capital markets and hence the global economy" in a way that could trigger a global crash sometime between 2015 and 2020.
According to Leggett, a wide range of experts and insiders "from diverse sectors spanning academia, industry, the military and the oil industry itself, including until recently the International Energy Agency or, at least, key individuals or factions therein" are expecting an oil crunch "within a few years," most likely "within a window from 2015 to 2020."
Despite its serious tone, The Energy of Nations: Risk Blindness and the Road to Renaissance, published by the reputable academic publisher Routledge, makes a compelling and ultimately hopeful case for the prospects of transitioning to a clean energy system in tandem with a new form of sustainable prosperity.
The five risks he highlights cut across oil depletion, carbon emissions, carbon assets, shale gas, and the financial sector:"A market shock involving any one these would be capable of triggering a tsunami of economic and social problems, and, of course, there is no law of economics that says only one can hit at one time."At the heart of these risks, Leggett argues, is our dependence on increasingly expensive fossil fuel resources. His wide-ranging analysis pinpoints the possibility of a global oil supply crunch as early as 2015. "Growing numbers of people in and around the oil industry", he says, privately consider such a forecast to be plausible. "If we are correct, and nothing is done to soften the landing, the twenty-first century is almost certainly heading for an early depression."
Zero Hedge: From copper to iron to oil, China is the world's leading importer of almost every raw mineral. Wary of the risks this dependence brings, Beijing is looking ever inward to exploit the mineral wealth of its interior, including the politically contentious and technically challenging Tibetan Plateau. The most recent development is a 7-kilometer deep borehole drilled by Chinese resource exploration teams. The exact location of the borehole, the deepest ever drilled at such a high altitude, as well as the companies involved in the exploration are being kept secret.
The Plateau is estimated to contain 30-40 million tons of copper, 40 million tons of lead and zinc, and billions of tons of high-grade iron ore—it is also estimated that the Plateau's Qiangtang Basin contains upwards of 70 billion barrels of oil, potentially making it the largest such reserve on the planet. If these estimates are even remotely accurate, the rewards for Beijing will be enormous.
SOURCE: ZERO HEDGE
Since 2007, when the financial crisis touched down across the world, the proportion of people going hungry in Europe has soared, according to the OECD. As Bloomberg's Niraj Shah notes, the number has doubled in Greece alone from 8.9% in 2007 to almost 18% currently unable to afford food. Across the European Union, the proportion of people going hungry ranges from 4.6% in Germany to over 30% in (ironically) Hungary. However, before one gloats at the weakness in Europe and the cleanest dirty shirt the US pretends to be, at 21.1% of Americans unable to afford food, only Hungary and Estonia are in worst shape…
Source: @economistniraj via Bloomberg Briefs
Racing To Contain Ebola, one of the most deadly diseases known to humans, started killing people in Guinea a few months ago.
Ebola, one of the most deadly diseases known to humans, started killing people in Guinea a few months ago. There have been Ebola outbreaks in the past, but they were contained. The latest outbreak has now killed over 100 people across three countries. One of the biggest difficulties in containing an outbreak is knowing where the virus originated and how it spread. That problem is being addressed right now by experts and a host of volunteers using Open Street Map. 'Zoom in and you can see road networks and important linkages between towns and countries, where there were none before. Overlay this with victim data, and it can help explain the rapid spread. Click on the colored blobs and you will see sites of confirmed deaths, suspected cases that have been overturned, sites where Ebola testing labs have been setup or where the emergency relief teams are currently located.'
Read more of this story at Slashdot.
DALLAS, March 16, 2014 — Honey, that delectable condiment for breads and fruits, could be one sweet solution to the serious, ever-growing problem of bacterial resistance to antibiotics, researchers said here today.
Medical professionals sometimes use honey successfully as a topical dressing, but it could play a larger role in fighting infections, the researchers predicted. Their study was part of the 247th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world's largest scientific society.
The meeting, attended by thousands of scientists, features more than 10,000 reports on new advances in science and other topics. It is being held at the Dallas Convention Center and area hotels through Thursday.
"The unique property of honey lies in its ability to fight infection on multiple levels, making it more difficult for bacteria to develop resistance," said study leader Susan M. Meschwitz, Ph.D. That is, it uses a combination of weapons, including hydrogen peroxide, acidity, osmotic effect, high sugar concentration and polyphenols — all of which actively kill bacterial cells, she explained. The osmotic effect, which is the result of the high sugar concentration in honey, draws water from the bacterial cells, dehydrating and killing them.
In addition, several studies have shown that honey inhibits the formation of biofilms, or communities of slimy disease-causing bacteria, she said. "Honey may also disrupt quorum sensing, which weakens bacterial virulence, rendering the bacteria more susceptible to conventional antibiotics," Meschwitz said. Quorum sensing is the way bacteria communicate with one another, and may be involved in the formation of biofilms. In certain bacteria, this communication system also controls the release of toxins, which affects the bacteria's pathogenicity, or their ability to cause disease.
Meschwitz, who is with Salve Regina University in Newport, R.I., said another advantage of honey is that unlike conventional antibiotics, it doesn't target the essential growth processes of bacteria. The problem with this type of targeting, which is the basis of conventional antibiotics, is that it results in the bacteria building up resistance to the drugs.
Honey is effective because it is filled with healthful polyphenols, or antioxidants, she said. These include the phenolic acids, caffeic acid, p-coumaric acid and ellagic acid, as well as many flavonoids. "Several studies have demonstrated a correlation between the non-peroxide antimicrobial and antioxidant activities of honey and the presence of honey phenolics," she added. A large number of laboratory and limited clinical studies have confirmed the broad-spectrum antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties of honey, according to Meschwitz.
She said that her team also is finding that honey has antioxidant properties and is an effective antibacterial. "We have run standard antioxidant tests on honey to measure the level of antioxidant activity," she explained. "We have separated and identified the various antioxidant polyphenol compounds. In our antibacterial studies, we have been testing honey's activity against E. coli, Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, among others."
A press conference on this topic will be held Sunday, March 16, at 4:30 p.m. Central time in Room A122/A123 of the Dallas Convention Center. Reporters can attend in person or access live video of the event and ask questions at the ACS Ustream channel http://www.ustream.tv/channel/acslive.
Apr 12, 2014
Scientists' Aquaculture Holy Grail: Fish-Free Prawn Food will introduce greater sustainability into a growth industry
A team of CSIRO scientists has discovered the holy grail of aquaculture by developing the world's first fish-free prawn food: Novaq. According to the article there is intense global interest in Novaq because it solves one of the farmed prawn industry's biggest problems — its reliance on wild fisheries as a core ingredient in prawn food. The Novaq formula is a closely guarded secret, but it is known that the product is based on microscopic marine organisms. Not only will the new feed introduce greater sustainability into a growth industry but prawns fed on the new diet grow 40% faster and are healthier and more robust.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Apr 11, 2014
The Richmond-based company, which filed for bankruptcy after missing a $208,000 debt interest payment in March, blames its financial woes on the weak economy, environmental regulations and competition from natural gas, the Times-Dispatch writes. "The company missed the payment on $13.3 million of convertible notes due in March 2018, and the company said it had a 30-day grace period — until April 14 — in which to make the payment before going into default."
Apr 10, 2014
Panasonic's HIT solar cell hits record 25.6 percent conversion efficiency using solar cells of a "practical size."
Apr 9, 2014
Bloomberg, April 7, 2014:
As a thick smog hung over Beijing last year, Stephanie Giambruno and her husband decided it was time for her and their two girls to return to the U.S.
Giambruno's husband stayed back in China for his job as general manager of a global technology company. He now skypes with the family twice a day and lives with "constant jet lag" as he travels to Florida once a month to see them, she says.
While it's hard to be apart, Giambruno says Beijing's record air pollution left them no choice. She saw friends' children develop asthma. Their own daughters, at age 6 and 21 months, were often forced to remain indoors.
"It's not a way to live, to keep your baby inside with an air filter running," she said.
As bad air chokes Chinese cities, some expatriates are starting to leave families in their home countries, the latest sign of pollution's rising cost to themore than half-a-million foreigners working in China and the multinationals seeking to retain them. Smog in Beijing was worse than government standards most days last year, and environment ministry statistics show that 71 of 74 Chinese cities failed to meet air-quality standards.The World Health Organization said in March that air pollution contributed to 7 million deaths worldwide in 2012 — with 40 percent of those coming from the region dominated by China under the WHO's classification system. Outdoor air pollution can cause lung cancer, a WHO agency said last year, ranking it as a carcinogen for the first time.
"We are seeing some companies reverting to 1980s and 1990s hardship packages for executive-level candidates in cities that are hard hit with pollution," said Angie Eagan, managing director for China at recruitment firm MRIC, in an e-mail. "These packages are shaped around executives leaving their families in their home country and receiving an allowance for frequent home trips."
EPA and the Army Corps' Proposed Rule to Define "Waters of the United States"(PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)
On March 25, 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) jointly proposed a rule defining the scope of waters protected under the Clean Water Act (CWA). The proposed rule would revise regulations that have been in place for more than 25 years. Revisions are proposed in light of Supreme Court rulings in 2001 and 2006 that interpreted the regulatory scope of the CWA more narrowly than previously, but created uncertainty about the precise effect of the Court's decisions.
In April 2011, EPA and the Corps proposed guidance on policies for determining CWA jurisdiction to replace guidance previously issued in 2003 and 2008; all were intended to lessen confusion over the Court's rulings. The 2011 proposed guidance was extremely controversial, with some groups contending that it represented a massive federal overreach beyond the agencies' statutory authority. Most environmental advocacy groups welcomed the proposed guidance, although some would have preferred a stronger document. The 2014 proposed rule would replace the existing 2003 and 2008 guidance, which remains in effect because the 2011 proposed guidance was not finalized.
According to the agencies, the proposed rule would revise the existing regulatory definition of "waters of the United States" consistent with legal rulings—especially the Supreme Court cases—and science concerning the interconnectedness of tributaries, wetlands, and other waters to downstream waters and effects of these connections on the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of downstream waters. Waters that are "jurisdictional" are subject to the multiple regulatory requirements of the CWA: standards, discharge limitations, permits, and enforcement. Non-jurisdictional waters, in contrast, do not have the federal legal protection of those requirements.
This report describes the March 25 proposed rule and includes a table comparing the existing regulatory language that defines "waters of the United States" with that in the proposal. The proposed rule is particularly focused on clarifying the regulatory status of waters located in isolated places in a landscape, the types of waters with ambiguous jurisdictional status following the Supreme Court's ruling. The proposal does not modify some categories of waters that currently are jurisdictional by rule (traditional navigable waters, interstate waters and wetlands, the territorial seas, and impoundments). Changes proposed in the proposed rule would increase the asserted geographic scope of CWA jurisdiction, in part as a result of the agencies' expressly declaring some types of waters categorically jurisdictional (such as all waters adjacent to a jurisdictional water), and also by application of new definitions, which give larger regulatory context to some types of waters, such as tributaries. The proposal does not identify specific waters—particular streams or ponds—that would be jurisdictional as a result of the rule.
Plato Philosophy in the Googleplex: technology has democratized information....and that is very dangerous for democracy,'
Over the last ten years we have produced more plastic than during the whole of the last century.
50 percent of the plastic we use, we use just once and throw away.
Enough plastic is thrown away each year to circle the earth four times.
We currently recover only five percent of the plastics we produce.
The average American throws away approximately 185 pounds of plastic per year.
Plastic accounts for around 10 percent of the total waste we generate.
Americans throw away 35 billion plastic water bottles every year
Annually approximately 500 billion plastic bags are used worldwide. More than one million bags are used every minute.
46 percent of plastics float and it can drift for years before eventually concentrating in the ocean gyre.
It takes 500-1,000 years for plastic to degrade.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is located in the North Pacific Gyre off the coast of California and is the largest ocean garbage site in the world. This floating mass of plastic is twice the size of Texas, with plastic pieces outnumbering sea life six to one.
Plastic constitutes approximately 90 percent of all trash floating on the ocean's surface, with 46,000 pieces of plastic per square mile.
One million sea birds and 100,000 marine mammals are killed annually from plastic in our oceans.
44 percent of all seabird species, 22 percent of cetaceans, all sea turtle species and a growing list of fish species have been documented with plastic in or around their bodies.
Plastic chemicals can be absorbed by the body—93 percent of Americans age six or older test positive for BPA (a plastic chemical). Some of these compounds found in plastic have been found to alter hormones or have other potential human health effects.
The US Navy's study is looking at producing 100,000 gallons/day of aviation fuel. Technically, that's a high-grade kerosene, not gasoline. For comparison, an F-18 Super Hornet has a fully-loaded capacity of about 430 gallons, so this would supply around 230 flights/day. It's about 1/8400 the total petroleum consumption of the US (20 million barrels/day, more later).
The process consumes energy which must be input from elsewhere. The benefit is obtaining liquid hydrocarbon fuel, which is useful, versatile, and very energy dense. Power requirements for 100k gal/day is around 240 MW, which happens to be roughly the output of a Nimitz-class carrier's reactors.
There are three parts to the process:
- Electrolysis of hydrogen, which consumes most of the energy, and is, on an energy-delivered basis, about 60% efficient. That is, you're losing 40% of your input energy, but you get storable energy in the form of hydrogen, which is converted to hydrocarbons later.
- Carbon dioxide is present in seawater at about 140x greater volumetric densities than in the atmosphere, in the form of dissolved gas (2-3%) and as bicarbonate and carbonate (97-98%). This can be extracted via partial vaccuum and pH changes which, conveniently, accompany hydrogen electrolysis.
- Fischer-Tropsch process long-chain hydrocarbon synthesis. This is a well-understood, long-established chemical process developed in the 1920s. Most liquid petrochemical fuels are long-chain hydrocarbons, the Navy's goal is a chain length of eleven.
The process will require a lot of seawater: 8.8 billion liters/day. That's 3520 Olympic-sized swimming pools worth. I strongly suspect that pumping and water-handling costs and energy usage will be significant.
Reactor size based on existing electrolysis vessels would be roughly 24,500 m3 , or a cube 157 m on a side. This exceeds the practical dimensions of a carrier -- we're not talking about a system which could fit within an existing ship's hull dimensions. Instead the Navy is considering a fixed-location plant, and possibly a floating platform which could accompany a carrier task group. More below.
Supplied energy for a fixed-site plant is seen coming from an ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) facility as a renewable source. Alternatively, an aircraft carrier's reactor output could supply a floating platform, though this would involve tethering a carrier to another vessel to supply power. Reports suggesting that existing tender and supply logistics would be eliminated are, as far as I can tell, entirely bogus. You've still got fuel which requires transfer. The logistics will change but they'll still exist.
On a rough back-of-the-envelope basis, scaling this to national levels is at least within the realm of possibility, though it would be tremendously expensive. The plant size could be as small as a few square kilometers (compared with tens of thousands to a few million km2 for biomass algae or crop fuel scenarios), electric power would be a couple of terawatts (a 180 km square of solar output), and cost would be around $8 trillion (about half of annual GDP of the US), for the fuel synthesis alone. Solar generation costs would likely double that.
The technology should be carbon-neutral. It's extracting carbon dioxide from seawater, and the fuel is then burned, returning it to the atmosphere. This doesn't reduce net biosphere carbon, but it doesn't increase it either. This is contrasted with both fossil fuel use, in which ancient carbon stored underground is released to the atmosphere (which increases biospheric CO2) and carbon sequestration, in which carbon is removed (by technical or biological means) and buried (decreasing biospheric CO2).
State of the project is that some very small-scale (relative to the proposed size) tests have been conducted, with reasonably positive results. I tend not to get very excited about much in the way of alternative energy / fuel suggestions, but this at least seems like it's based on solid technical foundations. I suspect the eventual costs will be higher than what's currently projected ($3-$6/gallon fuel). The military has a huge interest in energy and fuel, and navies in particular have driven a number of fuel revolutions: adoption of coal in the mid-19th century, oil during WWI, and nuclear power following WWII.