Mar 31, 2011

Fukushima warning in 2004 and Cesium Fallout ALREADY Rivals Chernobyl

Japanese Seismologist in 2004 on Risk of Nuclear Accident: "It's Like a Kamikaze Terrorist Wrapped in Bombs Just Waiting to Explode"

Of all the places in all the world where no one in their right mind would build scores of nuclear power plants, Japan would be pretty near the top of the list...Japan sits on top of four tectonic plates, at the edge of the subduction zone, and is in one of the most tectonically active regions of the world...I realized that Japan has no real nuclear-disaster plan in the event that an earthquake damaged a reactor's water-cooling system and triggered a reactor meltdown.

It is not a question of whether or not a nuclear disaster will occur in Japan; it is a question of when it will occur.
And the New York Times points out today:
In an admission of how long the cooling process may take, Hidehiko Nishiyama, deputy director general of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, Japan's nuclear regulator, said late Tuesday: "We will have to continue cooling for quite a long period. We should be thinking years."
Kuni Yogo, a former atomic energy policy planner in the Japan Science and Technology Agency, said: "There is some trial and error, but this is the beginning of a three- to five-year effort."
Of course, if all goes well, the reactor cores and spent fuel rods should cool down considerably over the next couple of months. But the fact that the Japanese might need to sustain the cooling effort for years on end is stunning.

EU to ban cars from cities by 2050 - "This sort of greenwashing grandstanding adds nothing and merely highlights their grandiose ambitions."

The European Commission on Monday unveiled a "single European transport area" aimed at enforcing "a profound shift in transport patterns for passengers" by 2050.

Siim Kallas, the EU transport commission, insisted that Brussels directives and new taxation of fuel would be used to force people out of their cars and onto "alternative" means of transport.

"That means no more conventionally fuelled cars in our city centres," he said. "Action will follow, legislation, real action to change behaviour."

Christopher Monckton, Ukip's transport spokesman said: "The EU must be living in an alternate reality, where they can spend trillions and ban people from their cars."

True toll of BP disaster may be 50 times worse than thought

Daily KO's - The recorded impact of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill on wildlife may have severely underestimated the number of deaths of whales and dolphins, according to a new report.

An unusual mortality event has been declared by NOAAfor cetaceans in the northern Gulf of Mexico. However, the actual number of dead cetaceans may be 50 times higher than the number counted according to a new study published today.

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010 devastated the Gulf of Mexico ecologically and economically. However, a new study published in Conservation Letters reveals that the true impact of the disaster on wildlife may be gravely underestimated. The study argues that fatality figures based on the number of recovered animal carcasses will not give a true death toll, which may be 50 times higher than believed.

"The Deepwater oil spill was the largest in US history, however, the recorded impact on wildlife was relatively low, leading to suggestions that the environmental damage of the disaster was actually modest," said lead author Dr Rob Williams from the University of British Columbia."This is because reports have implied that the number of carcasses recovered, 101, equals the number of animals killed by the spill."

Cetacean mortality tabulated by NOAA based on observed strandings. "All stranded cetaceans (dolphins and whales) from Franklin County, FL to the Texas/ Louisiana border."

All stranded bottlenose dolphins from Franklin County, FL to the Texas/ Louisiana border.

Image Source: NOAA

A marine mammal advocate working for the NRDC calculates that thousands of dolphins have died.

Libya War Costs $600 Million for First Week

One week after an international military coalition intervened in Libya, the cost to U.S. taxpayers has reached at least $600 million, according figures provided by the Pentagon.

H.R. 910, Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011

H.R. 910 would amend the Clean Air Act to prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating greenhouse gases (GHGs) to address climate change. The bill would create exceptions for various programs in current law, including emission standards for vehicles and EPA's renewable fuel standard. Because certain EPA activities associated with regulating GHGs would be prohibited under the bill, CBO estimates that enacting this legislation would save $57 million in 2012 and about $250 million over the 2012-2016 period...

H.R. 910 contains an intergovernmental mandate as defined in UMRA because it would expand an existing preemption of state laws that regulate GHGs from motor vehicles. Under current law, California may obtain a waiver from EPA to establish its own standard for GHGs from motor vehicles. Once EPA has approved the waiver, other states may adopt the California standard. The bill would prevent EPA from approving such waivers, thus expanding the preemption. Although the preemption would limit the application of state law, CBO estimates that it would impose no duty on state governments that would result in additional spending.  - Read full here

Mar 30, 2011

"unleash America's innovation machine and win the global race for the clean energy jobs of the future."

Pay $1,000 to hand over your or your companies million dollar idea to someone else?
As part of the Obama Administration's Startup America Initiative, U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu today announced the "America's Next Top Energy Innovator" challenge, which will give start-up companies the opportunity to license groundbreaking technologies developed by the national laboratories for $1,000 and build successful businesses. As part of this effort, the Department is reducing both the cost and paperwork requirements for start-up companies to obtain an option agreement to license some of the 15,000 patents and patent applications held by our 17 national laboratories.

"America's entrepreneurs and innovators are the best in the world," said Secretary Chu. "Today, we're challenging them to create new businesses based on discoveries made by our world-leading national laboratories. Because we've cut the upfront fees and reduced the paperwork, we'll make it easier for start-up companies to succeed and create the new jobs our economy needs. Our goal is simple: unleash America's innovation machine and win the global race for the clean energy jobs of the future."

Currently, only about 10% of federal patents have been licensed to be commercialized. This initiative aims to double the number of startup companies coming out of the national laboratories.

Specifically, as part of "America's Next Top Energy Innovator:"

  1. On Monday, May 2, 2011, the Department will kick off the challenge by posting a streamlined template option agreement online for entrepreneurs to submit to laboratories. Entrepreneurs must identify the technology of interest and submit a business plan to be considered for the program. Participants will have until December 15 to make their submission to the laboratory.
  2. Any of the 15,000 unlicensed patents and patent applications held by the national laboratories will be available for licensing by startup companies.
  3. From May 2 to December 15, the Department will reduce the total upfront cost of licensing DOE patents in a specific technology to a $1,000 upfront fee for portfolios of up to three patents. This represents a savings of $10,000 to $50,000 on average in upfront fees.
  4. Other license terms, such as equity and royalties, will be negotiated on a case by case basis and will typically be due once the company grows and achieves wide scale commercial success. These fees help support the Department's continuing research activities to develop new technologies.
  5. The Department will simplify the licensing process and establish a standard set of terms for start-ups, who generally lack the resources, time, or expertise to negotiate individual licensing agreements. This will significantly reduce both the time and cost required to process the license, allowing faster access to the Department's patents and enabling the Department to process more licenses in a shorter amount of time.
  6. Entrepreneurs who complete the process and demonstrate progress toward executing their business plan and commercializing the technology will have the opportunity to be showcased at the 3rd Annual ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit in 2012, which brings together leading technology startups and clean energy investors from around the country.

In addition to these steps, the Department is making it easier for companies to use the world-leading facilities at our national laboratories to conduct collaborative research and development activities. Previously, companies had to make an upfront payment covering the first 90 days of research work—a requirement that was often difficult for start-ups to meet. Today, the Department is lowering the advance payment requirement to 60 days. This change will benefit all companies—not just start-ups—but could be valuable for those participating in the "America's Next Top Energy Innovator" challenge.

Entrepreneurs interested in participating can already view the available technologies on the Department's Energy Innovation Portal.

Mar 29, 2011

China To Overtake US In Science In Two Years

"China is set to overtake America in scientific output as soon as 2013 — far earlier than expected. Chinese research spending has grown by 20% per year since 1999, now reaching over $100bn, and as many as 1.5 million science and engineering students graduated from Chinese universities in 2006. 'I think this is positive, of great benefit, though some might see it as a threat and it does serve as a wake-up call for us not to become complacent,' said Professor Sir Chris Llewellyn Smith. However, the report points out that a growing volume of research publications does not necessarily mean an increase in quality."

China's Miracle Demystified - As a late-comer to this modernization process in 1949, China had the advantage of backwardness. To innovate, China did not have to invent the technology or industry by doing R&D. It could borrow technology, industries and institutions from the advanced countries with low risk and costs. East Asian economies, including Japan and the four small dragons as well as China after the transition in 1979, all tapped into this advantage.

World Bank

China's miracle raises the following five questions.

  1. What was behind China's extraordinary performance?
  2. Why Did China Fail before the Transition in 1979?
  3. Why Didn't Other Transition Economies Perform Equally Well?
  4. What Costs Did China Pay for Its Success?
  5. Can Other Developing Countries Replicate the Miracle?

Image credit smbc

The Simpsons Reviewed For Unsuitable Nuclear Jokes?

"CNN that television networks in several European countries are reportedly reviewing episodes of 'The Simpsons' for any 'unsuitable' references to nuclear disaster, with an Austrian network apparently pulling two episodes: 1992's 'Marge Gets a Job' and 2005's 'On a Clear Day I Can't See My Sister,' which include jokes about radiation poisoning and nuclear meltdowns. Al Jean, executive producer of the show, says that he can appreciate the concern.

'We have 480 episodes, and if there are a few that they don't want to air for awhile in light of the terrible thing going on, I completely understand that,' says Jean, citing the example of the 1997 episode 'The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson' that was pulled after 9/11 because it included key scenes at the World Trade Center. 'We would never make light of what's happening in Japan.'" -SlashDot

Mar 28, 2011

US: Most energy resources in the world

a new report from the Congressional Research Service (CSR), the largest on earth. They eclipse Saudi Arabia (3rd), China (4th) and Canada (6th) combined – and that's without including America's shale oil deposits and, in the future, the potentially astronomic impact of methane hydrates.

The energy facts in the CRS report should be making front page news all over America. Mostly it isn't. Given the devastating news from Japan and New Zealand, it may be right to postpone dancing in the streets. But something else is going on. Even though they are going to dominate global energy supply for decades to come the insidious war on vital fossil fuels continues apace.

U.S. Has Earth's Largest Energy Resources

Thus it perhaps falls to a friend of the US (i.e. me) to state that if the White House is in any way serious about impacting the economic Black Hole that is the burgeoning national debt, reinvigorating business big-time, creating real jobs and restoring ebbing national wealth, the best shot by a distance if you're American ... well, you're standing on it, or rather above it.

While love, spiritually speaking and in fiction, may make the world go around, it is energy – and mostly hydrocarbon energy – that actually drives it. As blockbuster thrillers sometimes put it, "Who will tell the President?"

Read more by Peter Glover says,  in the Energy Tribune, this ought to be the lead story

Mar 27, 2011

Energy Audits May Be a Tough Sell [jetsongreen]

Harris Interactive surveyed 3,171 adults during the week of Valentines, February 14 – February 21, and asked them all sort of questions about energy, energy efficiency, and power sources. I found some surprising information in the results — i.e., 56% of Americans have never heard the term "smart grid." Perhaps even more astonishing, only 11% of American have conducted a home energy evaluation or home energy audit., Harris Interactive asked survey participants the following question: Which of the following have you done to improve energy efficiency in your place of living? 

In the low-hanging fruit department, 84% of Americans turn off TVs, lights, and other things when not in use. Also, 60% of Americans replace incandescent bulbs with efficient lights and use power strips with their electronics. 53% of Americans look for Energy Star when replacing small appliances.

But less than a majority of Americans do things like weather strip windows and doors (38%), change air filters (35%), seal gaps in floors, walls, or around pipes (33%), install low-flow faucets and showerheads (29%), add insulation to attic, walls, and crawl space (25%), or conduct a home energy evaluation or audit (11%).

I'm not sure why home energy audit/evaluation has such a low response number.  Some audit tools are available online for free.  Plus, an audit/evaluation should be the first step when undertaking a system or efficiency improvement.  On the flip side, I guess this means the market is full of opportunity.

Read The Harris Poll re: Energy and Energy Efficiency.

Related Articles on

  1. Audits, Loans, and a Home Energy Score
  2. Survey: Saving Energy is Top Priority
  3. Getting a Home Energy Assessment

“The world is out of its mind with stupidity and the worship of stupidity.” - Sean Penn out in Haiti  Penn's combination of hostility and principled fraternal feeling makes for a very odd, angry sort of philanthropy. 

It is probably not a sort that is massively appealing to the American public. As a rule, we prefer it when our celebrity philanthropists make us feel warm and sweet about giving, and being warm and sweet is not Penn's forte. Still, it would be a pity if the spikiness of Penn's manners were allowed to obscure the worth of his deeds. He is never going to have the creamy charm of a George Clooney or the unflappable good spirits of a Brad Pitt. 

But it is quite possible that he will end up doing more palpable good in the world than either of those admirable men.

The Reality Detached American

Mar 26, 2011

NYT - Oil Spill in South Atlantic

A major spill of heavy crude oil from a wrecked freighter has coated an estimated 20,000 endangered penguins on a remote South Atlantic island chain, the local authorities and environmental groups said Tuesday.

Three oiled rockhopper penguins on the Tristan da Cunha island chain. Thousands of endangered penguins have been coated with oil after a cargo ship ran aground and broke up on a remote British South Atlantic territory.

More than 800 tons of fuel oil has leaked from the Maltese-registered ship, which ran aground on Nightingale Island, part of the Tristan da Cunha archipelago, a British territory, early in the morning of March 16, local officials said. All 22 crew members of the M.S. Oliva were rescued.

"The scene at Nightingale is dreadful, as there is an oil slick encircling the island," Trevor Glass, a local conservation officer, said in a statement.

The ship has broken in half and an additional 800 tons of fuel oil is believed to be leaking from the front section of the hull, said a spokeswoman with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, a British-based conservation group monitoring the situation.

The Tristan Da Cunha archipelago lies about 1,700 miles from the nearest land, in South Africa, making it the most remote inhabited island group in the world. The islands are rich in life and are home to about 200,000 penguins, including nearly half of the world's population of northern rockhopper penguins, an endangered species whose population has plunged in recent decades for unknown reasons.

Jay Holcomb, the director emeritus of the International Bird Rescue Research Center, a bird conservation group that responds to oil spills, said in a posting on the group's Web site that about 20,000 rockhopper penguins had been "confirmed oiled." Images from the island showed large groups of penguins, which have distinctive spiky crests, coated in oil. "Many of the birds have been oiled for over a week, which limits their chances of survival," Mr. Holcomb wrote.
Read on at The New York Times

Deadly Antibiotic-Resistant Superbug Spreads in Southern California

An antibiotic-resistant superbug once thought to be rare is spreading through health-care facilities in Southern California, health officials say. Roughly 350 cases of carbapenem-resistant Klebsiella pneumoniae, or CRKP, were reported in Los Angeles County between June and December of 2010, according to a study from the L.A. County Department of Public Health to be presented April 3 in Dallas at the annual meeting of the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America.

"These patients tend to be elderly, they are commonly on ventilators and they often stay at the facility for an extended period of time," Dr. Dawn Terashita, medical epidemiologist and lead author of the study, said in a statement.

CRKP joins other superbugs such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, in a league of bacteria that outwits typical antibiotics.

"We develop new drugs to defeat the infections and germs change to get around those drugs and this is one of those cases," Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News chief health and medical editor, said today in an interview on ABC News' "Good Morning America."

Besser is a former acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

"It's like an arms race and in many ways the germs are winning," he said.

 Read on at ABC

Mar 25, 2011

A Look At the World's Dwindling Food Supply

"The UK's Government Office of Science has released a report titled 'The Future of Food and Farming' which takes a look at, among other related concerns, how to continue to feed a global population that is on pace to reach 9 billion by the year 2050. 'The report calls for more innovation to increase production. That means using the potential benefits of GM crops and other biotech approaches, although these won't be a cure-all. There's room for improvement on the consumption end, too, as 30 percent of food never makes it into a human stomach; in the developed world, we let produce slowly rot in the backs of our fridges, and the in developing world, farm wastage causes a similar problem. ... Rising energy prices influence food security, with a correlation between food price and oil price that has become stronger over time, first increasing food production costs, and later by encouraging the diversion of food stocks into biofuel production.'" 
Professor Beddington began by giving a brief overview of the report, also entitled The Future of Food and Farming, stating that the case for urgent action in the global food system is now compelling, and denying the "foul slander that I've been buying wheat futures to drive the price up." Although he was able to inject some levity, it is a deeply serious and somewhat worrying issue. 

Facing a convergence of threats, the global food system is failing. Each month, the global population grows by another 6 million, and an ever-wealthier world means one with more purchasing power, which drives up prices. Currently, with the global population at 7 billion and change, more than a billion of those go to bed hungry, and another billion suffer from malnutrition. And trends suggest that things will get worse.  

2010 was the first year when more people lived in urban rather than rural environments; by 2050, we're going to need 30 percent more food and 40 percent more water than is currently available. 

Beddington's key message was that not acting is not a viable option, and a radical redesign of the global food system is a must.

As laid out in the report linked above, the system is failing when it comes to both sustainability and ending hunger. Agriculture consumes around 70 percent of available water, and that figure rises to more than 80 percent in the developing world. Rivers and aquifers are being overexploited, including here in the US. Of 11.5 billion hectares (about 28 billion acres) of land being used for food production, more than 25 percent has undergone human-induced soil degradation. 

Agriculture is also contributing between 10 and 12 percent of the emissions that drive climate change. And, even with immediate policy changes, climate change has locked in weather changes for the next 20 years, which will have an impact on food production. The 2007-08 food price spike put millions into poverty, and the signs are there that these food price spikes will continue to happen. Last year's Russian heat wave halved its harvest, and floods in Pakistan have been doing its food production no favors either.

Food security in the developing world

IFPRI's Shenggen Fan discussed the problem of food security in emerging and developing economies. The lofty Millennium Development Goal of halving hunger is off-track; it aimed to reduce the number of people in hunger to 584 million by 2015, but projections suggest that number will be closer to a billion. Twenty-nine countries, mainly in Africa (but also in Asia), have alarming or extremely alarming levels of hunger

Fukushima Radioactive Fallout Nears Chernobyl Levels Radiation Maps In Asia and US

It gets worse... "The cumulative releases from Fukushima of iodine-131 and cesium-137 have reached 73% and 60% respectively of the amounts released from the 1986 Chernobyl accident. These numbers were reached independently from a monitoring station in Sacramento, CA, and Takasaki, Japan. The iodine and cesium releases are due to the cooking off of the more volatile elements in damaged fuel rods." - SlashDot 

One of the best of the new radiation maps was developed by Portland’s Uncorked Studios. In only 72 hours they created, an online display of up to date radiation levels across Japan and neighboring regions. Their information is gathered from volunteer and official sources and embedded onto an adapted Google Map. Three days from concept to a working map that gives valuable and reliable data to anyone who wants it for free, and not a dollar was spent in its production. Amazing.

RDTN map provides regularly updated radiation levels on a Google map. Click to go to live site.

Another great map of radiation levels was created by South Korean firm ISELSoft using their STUBBY web bots. The Stubby map compiles data from the web, gathering readings from various monitors across Japan, Korea, and Central Asia. It also color codes the data to reflect hazard levels. While it doesn’t have as many data points as RDTN, it is clear, easy to read, and regularly updated. Another winner.

Stubby map
Web bots gather data to form this STUBBY map. Click to go to live site.

While many of those wanting to track radiation levels after the Fukushima accident do so out of sympathy for Japanese citizens, let’s not ignore the fact that many others are simply worried about when dangerous radiation levels could show up in their own backyard. Along with maps detailing Japan, there are also a few looking elsewhere on the globe. The best example was created by Mineralab, producers of Geiger counters and related supplies. Their Radiation Network map shows radiation levels reported from individual monitors across the US. It also marks the location of nuclear facilities. The map is updated every minute, giving you radiation readings almost in realtime.

All data shown gathered by Mineralab LLC via their Radiation Network

There are several reasons why RDTN and the Stubby map are superior in my mind to the Radiation Network: They include a large amount of data from a number of reputable sources, they focus on the area most concerned with the accident, and the quality of their images seems better. Radiation Network, however, may give us a better idea of what we can expect in the future. While the first two maps are specifically geared towards the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant crisis, the latter is taking a much broader scope.


Mar 24, 2011

Worst Texas Drought in 44 Years Eroding Wheat, Beef Supply as Food Rallies worst Texas drought in 44 years is damaging the state's wheat crop and forcing ranchers to reduce cattle herds, as rising demand for U.S. food sends grain and meat prices higher.

Texas, the biggest U.S. cattle producer and second-largest winter-wheat grower, got just 4.7 inches (12 centimeters) of rain on average in the five months through February, the least for the period since 1967, State Climatologist John Nielsen- Gammon said. More than half the wheat fields and pastures were rated in poor or very poor condition on March 20.

Dry conditions extending to Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado may cut crop yields in the U.S., the world's largest exporter, as too much moisture threatens fields in North Dakota and in Canada. Wheat futures in Chicago are up 50 percent in the past year, after drought in Russia and floods in Australia hurt output and sent global food prices surging. Wholesale beef reached a record this week, and the U.S. cattle herd in January was the smallest since 1958. Read more at Bloomberg

Experimental Batteries Charge In Minutes

HTML clipboard  A diagram of a lithium-ion  battery constructed using Braun's nanostructured bicontinuous c...GizMag "Of all the criticisms of electric vehicles, probably the most commonly-heard is that their batteries take too long to recharge – after all, limited range wouldn't be such a big deal if the cars could be juiced up while out and about, in just a few minutes. Well, while no one is promising anything, new batteries developed at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign do indeed look like they might be a step very much in the right direction. They are said to offer all the advantages of capacitors and batteries, in one unit.

"This system that we have gives you capacitor-like power with battery-like energy," said U Illinois' Paul Braun, a professor of materials science and engineering. "Most capacitors store very little energy. They can release it very fast, but they can't hold much. Most batteries store a reasonably large amount of energy, but they can't provide or receive energy rapidly. This does both."

The speed at which conventional batteries are able to charge or discharge can be dramatically increased by changing the form of their active material into a thin film, but such films have typically lacked the volume to be able to store a significant amount of energy. In the case of Braun's batteries, however, that thin film has been formed into a three-dimensional structure, thus increasing its storage capacity...The system utilizes processes already used on a large scale, so it would reportedly be easy to scale up. It could also be used with any type of battery, not just Li-ion and NiMH.

" - Via - Slashdot

(Image by: Paul Braun, University of Illinois)

Florida Everglades formed by Piles of garbage left by humans

HTML clipboard HTML clipboard of garbage left by humans thousands of years ago may have helped form 'tree islands' in the Florida Everglades--patches of relatively high and dry ground that rise from the wetlands.

They stand between 1 and 2 meters higher than the surrounding landscape, can cover 100 acres or more, and host two to three times the number of species living in the surrounding marsh. Besides providing habitat for innumerable birds, the islands offer refuge for animals such as alligators and the Florida panther during flood season.

The trash piles—a mix of discarded food, charcoal, shell tools, and broken pottery—would have been slightly higher and drier than the surrounding marsh, offering a foothold for trees, shrubs, and other vegetation.

Read more at SlashDot

The Pyramid of New Water Sources

Jetson Green »Today is World Water Day and it just so happens that Jerry Yudelson, noted green building authority and author, has released a new conceptual tool to help people understand where water will come from in the future.  The tool mimics the popular Pyramid of Conservation used by Minnesota Power and explains water sourcing in ten increasingly expensive and complex steps.

As shown at the base of the pyramid, it's easy and relatively cheap to use less water.  It's a lot more complicated and expensive to desalinate ocean water for human consumption.  Here are the ten steps:

  • Behavior – education, audit, water pricing, conservation, construction codes
  • Low-cost/no-cost – leaks, aerators, low-flow showerheads, shower timers
  • Irrigation – native or adaptive landscape, drip systems, web-based irrigation, sub-metering
  • Hygiene – retrofits, low-flow toilets, water-free urinals, rebate programs
  • Appliances – dishwasher, clothes washer, water softener
  • Extreme Makeover – compost toilets, hardscape, no irrigation, on-site black water reuse
  • Water Heating – solar water heating, hot water loop, efficient water heater
  • On-site Reuse – rainwater collection, gray water, irrigation
  • Off-site Reuse – sewer mining, purple pipe systems
  • Desalination, New Water Sources

Of course, some of these can be done at home (i.e., retrofits, water-saving appliances, water heating), while others require a larger effort (i.e., desalination, off-site reuse).

Water is a precious resource that must be protected, and this is a primer to get that started.  All in all, this is a straight-forward, dead-simple graphic that can help us evaluate how to do that.

Download a copy of The Pyramid of New Water Sources.

Russia Steps in to Supply Japan’s Energy Needs

HTML clipboard recent earthquake in Japan unleashed a chain of events that shut down five to eight oil refineries and partially melted down three nuclear reactors. As the specter of energy shortages stalks the country, the Kremlin is riding to the rescue.

As the scope of the tragedy became clearer over the course of last weekend, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev came to the rescue and pledged to help make up Japan's energy deficit by boosting supplies from nearby Siberia.

"Our moral duty is to help in this situation,"
stated Medvedev on Monday as he ordered Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin to look into ways of redirecting up to 6,000 megawatts of electrical power to Japan.

 Medvedev also arranged for the delivery of an additional 200,000 tons of liquefied natural gas and an unspecified amount of Siberian coal over the next two months.

The Tokyo earthquake and resulting tsunami is forcing Japan to build both political and economic bridges to energy-laden Russia. A strong tri-corner alliance between Tokyo, Moscow and Beijing is about to form.

Read full at The Trumpet

GULF - Fresh Oil Continues to Wash Ashore

 "It reminded me of the first time we saw oil last summer, a brown reddish sheen."
The Coast Guard says it is mobilizing workers to lay fresh boom in environmentally sensitive areas and arranging for additional cleanup crews to help as oil comes ashore.

...The Coast Guard is continuing its investigation of reports last weekend of a major plume of oil in the Gulf that stretched for perhaps a hundred miles, according to reports filed with the Coast Guard's emergency response office.

...others who flew over the area last weekend believe there were vast stretches of oil in the water. Mike Roberts of the Louisiana Bayoukeepers was with a group that went up in the air on Saturday and then out on a boat on Barataria Bay Sunday. "It looked like a huge amount of oil in the Gulf," Roberts said. "They could smell it from the airplane and I could smell it from the boat. This wasn't just Mississippi River mud."

Read more at Huffington Post

Interactive Map – World Emergency and Disaster Alert Map


The 12 States Of America

See how your county compares to the rest of the country.

The Atlantic - Most stories about inequality in America miss an important point: rising disparities are not just about investment bankers versus auto workers. They're about entire communities of "winners" and "losers." And as these communities continue to diverge, the idea of "an American economy" looks more and more like an anachronism.
HTML clipboard

 Interactive Map: "Income Inequality"

The Atlantic analyzed reams of demographic, economic, cultural, and political data to break the nation's 3,141 counties into 12 statistically distinct "types of place." When we look at family income over the past 30 years through that prism, the full picture of the income divide becomes clearer—and much starker.

Seven of our 12 county-types saw their median family incomes fall. "Immigration Nation" counties fared the worst, as Latino immigrants, many with little education, moved in. The "Service Worker Centers" also saw steep declines, as manufacturing dried up. Leading in growth were the well-educated "Monied Burbs," where white-collar positions bloomed in office parks. Income in the "Industrial Metropolises" also rose, driven by gentrification and new wealth in inner-ring suburbs. - Atlantic

BPA warning FAIL

epic fail photos - Biology  FAIL

LePage said until scientists can prove BPA is harmful, the state should not rush to restrict its use.

"BPA is one of the most well-studied chemicals, and it is just ludicrous to ignore the science," said Susan Shaw, a toxicologist at the Maine Environmental Research Institute who has been studying the effects of toxics on humans and animals for more than three decades. "There is a large body of evidence about the hazards of BPA that is irrefutable."

Mar 23, 2011

Arsenic & lead a danger in urban farming

HTML clipboard remnants of once-legal lead paint, leaded gasoline and other pollutants from the nation's industrial past tainting land in U.S. cities, soil researchers warn that the growing number of urban farmers and community gardeners need to test their dirt and take steps to make sure it's safe. They point to cities like Indianapolis, where nine out of 10 urban gardens tested by one researcher had problems with lead in the soil. Or the Boston area, where a recent study suggests that even clean, trucked-in soil can end up contaminated, perhaps by windblown dust or dirt splatted by rain, in a few short years.

Agriculture and other experts say such problems don't outweigh the benefits of urban gardening, but those growing food should make sure their soil has been tested and take appropriate steps to address pollution so their fruits and vegetables are safe. Read more at Huffington Post

Benign by Design: Reducing the Toxicity of Products - Free Webcast

How do you make a better, greener product? It's a question that businesses of all types are posing in light of growing calls by customers and stakeholder for greater environmental responsibility. This is leading some companies to examine their entire supply chains in order to get a full picture of the opportunities and challenges. If you know what goes into your product, you can identify opportunities for greater efficiencies, both economically and environmentally.
This webcast series focuses in on a critical set of inputs common to most supply chains: toxic materials.

HTML clipboard"Benign by design" refers to the design of chemical products and processes that are aimed at reducing or eliminating the use or generation of hazardous substances at every stage of a product's life-cycle. "Benign by design" is not limited only to impacts of chemicals during product manufacturing but also through the products' entire life cycle.

Join Joel Makower, Executive Editor of in this three-part webcast series, featuring experts and thought leaders in reducing toxicity in products. Among the things you'll learn:
  • the impacts of toxic materials on human health
  • tools for how to identify concealed toxic substances in commonly used materials
  • how to balance the risk of using toxic substances with other benefits or considerations (such as functional requirements)
  • which standard methods exist to test for product emissions
  • which new regulations are emerging that will require changing the review of products which go to market
  • challenges in phasing out common toxic substances and reducing the toxic material burden
  • the role product standards play in the addressing the challenge.
Speakers will use case studies and real-world examples to share the information.

Find out more and sign up for this webcast series here

Google Spends $1 Million For Throttling Detection

"Google has awarded $1 million to Georgia Tech researchers so that they can develop simple tools to detect Internet throttling, government censorship, and other 'transparency' problems." - Slashdot

DOE news: Solar Homes, Wind Turbines, Efficient Buildings, and more

EERE Newsfor March 23rdHTML clipboard
  • U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011 Participants Bring Innovation to D.C.'s Ward 7 - In honor of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011—which challenges 20 collegiate teams to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive—we are profiling each of the 20 teams participating in the competition.

  • Mt. Wachusett Community College Makes Huge Investment in Wind Power - Mount Wachusett Community College in Gardner, Massachusetts, with support from DOE, made a huge investment in renewable energy by installing two utility-scale wind turbines on their campus in 2011. The turbines are expected to provide an annual savings of approximately $700,000 based on the area's current utility rates.

  • Disneyland's Dry Cleaning Gets an Energy Efficient Upgrade - As the provider of laundry and dry cleaning services for Disneyland Resort's costumes and hospitality supply items, L&N Costume and Linen Service knows about both quantity and quality. Now, with the help of the Gas Technology Institute (GTI) and DOE, this forward-looking enterprise is embracing new, clean energy technologies as well.

  • Geothermal Startup Will Put Carbon Dioxide to Good Use -

    An array of metal tubes and four steaming smokestacks stand in  front of a hill.

    Geothermal power holds enormous opportunities to provide affordable, clean energy that avoids greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide. One Utah-based startup is working on an innovative project that could make geothermal power even more beneficial.

  • Kansas City Buses Provide Clean Ride for Kids - On March 16, the Kansas City, Kansas School District welcomed some newcomers to their community—47 natural gas school buses deployed as part of DOE's Clean Cities Alternative Fuel Vehicle Pilot Program, supported by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

  • BLM Lists 2011 Priority Renewable Energy Projects - The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has announced its 2011 list of 19 priority projects for developing renewable energy on national public lands. The priority list includes nine solar projects, five wind projects, and five geothermal projects throughout the western United States.

Need for United States renewable energy agenda - Libya

Partial transcript -And I think both Japan and nuclear technology and Libya and this dependence we have on this imported oil have both once again highlighted the need for the United States to have a renewable energy agenda going forward.
...But it all goes back to the 5 million barrels of oil that we import from OPEC on a daily basis and the Republicans in Congress -- and I'm just going to finish on this note -- last week in the House of Representatives, in the Energy and Commerce Committee, stripped the Environmental Protection Agency of their ability to increase the fuel economy standards of the cars and trucks and planes and trains that we put the oil into. And, by the way, in a bill that passed three weeks ago, zeroed out all the loan guarantee money for wind and solar, while leaving in the money for nuclear power.
So, this is the time for a great debate: Japan and Libya, oil and nuclear.  
What is our future? And if we are going to have one, shouldn't it be one where we tap into our own technologies, our own abilities, to be able to provide the electricity we need with the indigenous natural resources we have in our own country rather than dangerously playing games with OPEC countries or with the nuclear technology which is inherently unsafe.
So, I think that all Americans know why the president made this strike. As long as American soldiers are not on the ground, as long as no bloodshed is attributed to our young men and women, then I think its a good decision for the president.
Mitchell: Thank you very much, Ed Markey.

Washington's Blog- Remember that Alan Greenspan, John McCain, George W. Bush, a high-level National Security Council officer and others say that the Iraq war was really about oil. And according to French intelligence officers, the U.S. wanted to run an oil pipeline through Afghanistan to transport Central Asian oil more easily and cheaply. And so the U.S. told the Taliban shortly before 9/11 that they would either get "a carpet of gold or a carpet of bombs", the former if they greenlighted the pipeline, the second if they didn't.  See this, this and this.

Libya's exports oil to many countries, including Italy (32 percent), Germany (14 percent), France (10 percent), China (10 percent), and the United States (5 percent), according to Reuters. Many of these nations, including Italy, France, and the U.S., are part of the international coalition gathered to enforce the UN no-fly zone over Libya, according to Defense News. China continues to pursue its diplomatic strategy of letting the West secure its access to natural resources in places like Afghanistan and Iraq, while speaking out against such efforts.
China's position is well calculated. Shukri Ghanem, chairman of Libya's National Oil Corporation, explained that future oil deals from Libya will depend on whether or not nations joined the international coalition against it, the Gulf Daily News reported. "A friend in need is a friend indeed," he said. "If someone stood with you, you cannot tell him no." Ghanem said he is looking to work closer with China, India, and Brazil in the future.
As Oil & Gas Journal reported on Friday that the West's access to oil in Libya is in doubt if Gadhafi remains in power.

Mar 19, 2011

Congress demands recycled paper cups on same day a British study says they cause cancer Democrats complain Styrofoam cups in the House cafeteria could contain carcinogens.

In a letter to Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) an other Republican leaders, the nine Democrats say the Styrofoam cups and other dining materials could hold chemical components that could cause cancer. The Democrats are upset with the switch to Styrofoam from recyclable materials put into place when Democrats ran the House.
The letter asks Boehner to reconsider the switch away from recyclable to polystyrene-based foam containers, and warns that the health of visitors to the Capitol could be compromised.

Two hours later, this story broke in the Telegraph UK:

Telegraph UK Recycled Paper Causes Cancer?

Breakfast cereal manufacturers are to stop using recycled cardboard in packaging after a study indicated that current boxes could pose a cancer risk.
Jordans — whose brands include Country Crisp and Crunchy Oats — has already stopped using recycled cardboard, while Kellogg's and Weetabix say they are taking steps to reduce the risk to human health.

The alert was sparked when researchers in Switzerland found that mineral oils in printing ink from recycled newspapers used in cardboard can get into foods — even passing through protective inner plastic bags.

Trash collectors won’t pick up new energy-saving bulbs

The Daily Mail UK has the details:

Councils across the UK are refusing to pick up low-energy lightbulbs from homes as they contain toxic mercury, which gives off poisonous vapours.

But confused consumers are putting the new bulbs — classed as hazardous waste — in their dustbins when they burn out, potentially putting the safety of thousands of binmen at risk.

… A study by Germany's Federal Environment Agency found that when [a compact fluorescent bulb] breaks, it emits levels of toxic vapour up to 20 times higher than the safe guideline limit for an indoor area.

The Republicans are making some muted noises about repealing the law behind this idiotic lightbulb, but we don't expect them to see the light until it's too late.

Source: Daily Mail UK

US Understates Deficits by $2.3 Trillion

A new assessment of US budget released Friday says the White House underestimates future budget deficits by more than $2 trillion over the upcoming decade. estimate from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says that if Obama's February budget submission is enacted into law it would produce deficits totaling $9.5 trillion over 10 years — an average of almost $1 trillion a year.

Obama's budget saw deficits totaling $7.2 trillion over the same period.

A special index created by the Labor Department to measure the actual cost of living for Americans hit a record high in February, according to data released Thursday, surpassing the old high in July 2008. The Chained Consumer Price Index, released
The Federal Reserve continues to focus on the rate of change in inflation,” said Peter Bookvar, equity strategist at Miller Tabak. “Sure, it’s moving at a slower pace, but the absolute cost of living is now back at a record high in a country that has seven million less jobs.”

Mar 18, 2011

Japan Earthquake May Have Shifted Earth's Axis

"Using a complex model to perform a theoretical calculation based on a US Geological Survey, Richard Gross of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory has determined that by changing the distribution of the Earth's mass, the earthquake that devastated Japan last Friday should have sped up the Earth's rotation, resulting in a day that is about 1.8 microseconds (1.8 millionths of a second) shorter."  Undersea Cables Damaged By Earthquake  "The horrific earthquake and the ensuing tsunami in Japan have caused widespread damage to undersea communications, according to data collected by telecom industry sources. Initially, it was thought that the damage to the cables that connect Japan and Asia to each other and other parts of the world was limited, but new data shows the extent of the problems."

End Of The Nuclear Renaissance - Uranium stocks plunge for second day.

Uranium stocks plunge for second day... amid heightened fears of a nuclear meltdown in Japan following last week's earthquake and tsunami.

''There's just so much uncertainty. Nobody bar a few nuclear experts actually know what's happening, which is the scary thing,'' IG Markets market strategist Ben Potter said. ''Some reports are saying winds could blow low level radiation into Tokyo in 10 hours, while others dismiss the fact.
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''Either way, the world's worst nightmare could be unfolding.''

Read full from the BigGav

Geothermal drilling at half the time and half the cost?

HTML clipboard BIgGav The Climate Spectator has an article on a company looking to make geothermal drilling a lot cheaper - Deeper, faster, cheaper.
The transformation of Australian industry into a low-carbon economy is often said to depend on the development of smart and high technology, but some of the country's most prospective clean energy resources could be unlocked by some good old-fashioned mining know-how.

Drilling for geothermal wells can cost $15 to $20 million...The GT3000 is the brainchild of Coretrack director Warren Strange, who in between coming to grief in Dakar rallies on his motorbike, built up a large drilling business before selling out to Brandrill for an estimated $26 million. He kept one subsidiary, Globedrill, and an idea to build the fastest, most compact and manoeuvrable, most affordable deep drilling rig in the world, and one designed specifically for the geothermal industry.

Coretrack says the GT 3000 has been achieving hard rock penetration rates of more than 30 metres an hour, many times faster than the existing platform-based drill rigs. It has used just a three-man crew and consumed only 14.6 litres of diesel per hour, compared to as much as 600 litres per hour used in competing oil and gas rigs.

The Salamander 1 well drilled by Panax Geothermal in South Australia in 2010 reached a depth of 4025 metres after 42 days and at a cost of $15 million. That equates to an average drill rate of 95 metres a day at a cost of $3,750 per metre.

It says the GT3000 could have done the same job in half the time and half the cost.

Build your own vertical axis wind turbine

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You can build a copy of this vertical wind turbine in a weekend and it won't cost you all that much. Applied Sciences developed the hardware and they're sharing all for the build details. You will be taken through every part of the build starting with the fin assembly which is made from stove-pipe material.

This is a perfect raw material because it is already curved and suited for aerodynamic use in much the same way that PVC pipe is for making fins and we would expect it to be a bit lighter in weight. You will also need to turn your own coils when assembling the stator. This particular build process uses nine coils embedded in fiberglass. They remain stationary while two different discs, each containing a dozen rare earth magnets, rotate in close proximity to induce a current. It outputs three-phase AC current which can be turned to DC using a bridge rectifier and then further regulated for storage in batteries.  Read more at HackAday

Free Energy is for fools?

In her new element-14 video [Jeri Ellsworth] explains some  concepts about "free to you" energy and features the LTC3109EUF, an Auto-polarity, Ultra low Voltage Step-Up Converter and Power Manager, along with the LTC3588EMSE a Piezoelectric Energy Harvesting Power Supply.

Using the LTC3109EUF she is able to power a modified Nintendo Entertainment System, and LCD using a small generator and an exercise bike. The LTC3588EMSE is wired up to piezo's in different applications including being squashed, vibrated, and temperature difference to power low current devices.

All this and a totally 80′s theme, so poof up your hair, get your spiked dog collar, and find those neon green shades because this is a fun and informative video available on element-14. - HackAday

Pepsi Moving To Bottles Made of Plant Material

HTML clipboard The bottle is made from switch grass, pine bark, corn husks and  other materials. Photo / AP"Pepsi unveiled a new bottle yesterday made entirely of plant material. The bottle is made from switch grass, pine bark, corn husks and other materials. Ultimately, Pepsi plans to also use orange peels, oat hulls, potato scraps and other leftovers from its food business.

'This is the beginning of the end of petroleum-based plastics,' said Allen Hershkowitz, a senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defence Council and director of its waste management project. 'When you have a company of this size making a commitment to a plant-based plastic, the market is going to respond.'" - SlashDot

Mar 17, 2011

Because someone has too...

America and Nuclear: Obama’s Forgotten Track Record

Russ Baker As the New York Times reported the other day,

Mr. Obama is seeking tens of billions of dollars in government insurance for new nuclear construction, and the nuclear industry in the United States, all but paralyzed for decades after the Three Mile Island accident in 1979, was poised for a comeback.

Now, that is all in question as the world watches the unfolding crisis in Japan's nuclear reactors and the widespread terror it has spawned…..

Thinking about Obama and his recent efforts to promote nuclear energy as a viable substitute for fossil fuels, I recalled something I had read back in 2008. Even though it was on the front page of the New York Times back in those early days of the presidential campaign, it never caught on. Most people I ask don't remember this at all. Back then, it troubled me. And still does.

Here it is, from Feb. 3, 2008. Someone put such a bland headline on it that a lot of folks probably never found out what lay beneath the surface. [bold type is mine, for emphasis]

Nuclear Leaks and Response Tested Obama in Senate


When residents in Illinois voiced outrage two years ago upon learning that the Exelon Corporation had not disclosed radioactive leaks at one of its nuclear plants, the state's freshman senator, Barack Obama, took up their cause.

Mr. Obama scolded Exelon and federal regulators for inaction and introduced a bill to require all plant owners to notify state and local authorities immediately of even small leaks. He has boasted of it on the campaign trail, telling a crowd in Iowa in December that it was "the only nuclear legislation that I've passed."

"I just did that last year," he said, to murmurs of approval.

A close look at the path his legislation took tells a very different story. While he initially fought to advance his bill, even holding up a presidential nomination to try to force a hearing on it, Mr. Obama eventually rewrote it to reflect changes sought by Senate Republicans, Exelon and nuclear regulators.The new bill removed language mandating prompt reporting and simply offered guidance to regulators, whom it charged with addressing the issue of unreported leaks.

Those revisions propelled the bill through a crucial committee. But, contrary to Mr. Obama's comments in Iowa, it ultimately died amid parliamentary wrangling in the full Senate.

"Senator Obama's staff was sending us copies of the bill to review, and we could see it weakening with each successive draft," said Joe Cosgrove, a park district director in Will County, Ill., where low-level radioactive runoff had turned up in groundwater. "The teeth were just taken out of it."

The history of the bill shows Mr. Obama navigating a home-state controversy that pitted two important constituencies against each other and tested his skills as a legislative infighter. On one side were neighbors of several nuclear plants upset that low-level radioactive leaks had gone unreported for years; on the other was Exelon, the country's largest nuclear plant operator and one of Mr. Obama's largest sources of campaign money…..

Since 2003, executives and employees of Exelon, which is based in Illinois, have contributed at least $227,000 to Mr. Obama's campaigns for the United States Senate and for president. Two top Exelon officials, Frank M. Clark, executive vice president, and John W. Rogers Jr., a director, are among his largest fund-raisers.

Another Obama donor, John W. Rowe, chairman of Exelon, is also chairman of the Nuclear Energy Institute, the nuclear power industry's lobbying group, based in Washington. Exelon's support for Mr. Obama far exceeds its support for any other presidential candidate.

In addition, Mr. Obama's chief political strategist, David Axelrod, has worked as a consultant to Exelon….

Now, you may be pro-nuclear, or anti-nuclear, pro-Obama, anti-Obama or somewhere in the middle. But with the developments in Japan, the only thing safe is…. to start paying close attention to developments here at home.

Read full at