Apr 30, 2010

Official Guide to Save The Frogs Day 2010!

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Your Official Guide to Save The Frogs Day 2010!

Please download Your Official Guide to Save The Frogs Day 2010, and forward it on to all your friends! This guide was published as our April 2010 Members Newsletter. If you enjoy reading it, please support our worldwide amphibian conservation efforts by becoming an Official Member of SAVE THE FROGS! -- all members get a free 12-month subscription to the newsletter! Thanks to SAVE THE FROGS! Volunteer Barbara Flaherty for her invaluable graphic design assistance!
Oficial Guide
Official Declaration of Save The Frogs Day
We would like to thank Mayor Mike Rotkin of Santa Cruz, California for legally recognizing the 2nd Annual Save The Frogs Day (April 30th, 2010). Mayor Rotkin will join SAVE THE FROGS! Founder Dr. Kerry Kriger on the morning of Save The Frogs Day as Dr. Kriger introduces a local elementary school’s students to the Wild World of Frogs. 

Apr 29, 2010

A proclamation of safety

ISHN - A bit of history was made yesterday when President Obama became the first president to issue a proclamation in recognition of Workers Memorial Day (April 28th).

Here is the proclamation, provided by the White House press office: (Please read full at WhiteHouse.gov)
...On Workers Memorial Day, we remember all those who have died, been injured, or become sick on the job, and we renew our commitment to ensure the safety of American workers... thousands die each year of work-related disease, and millions are injured or contract an illness. Most die far from the spotlight, unrecognized and unnoticed by all but their families, friends, and co-workers -- but they are not forgotten.

"The legal right to a safe workplace was won only after countless lives had been lost over decades in workplaces across America, and after a long and bitter fight waged by workers, unions, and public health advocates. Much remains to be done, and my Administration is dedicated to renewing our Nation's commitment to achieve safe working conditions for all American workers.

"Providing safer work environments will take the concerted action of government, businesses, employer associations, unions, community organizations, the scientific and public health communities, and individuals. Today, as we mourn those lost mere weeks ago in the Upper Big Branch Mine and other recent disasters, so do we honor all the men and women who have died on the job. In their memory, we rededicate ourselves to preventing such tragedies, and to securing a safer workplace for every American.  Please read full at WhiteHouse.gov

Senate OSHA hearings "nothing more than PR"


Giant batteries made out of gravel could save green grid

Did I speak too soon? This is a nice concept that may work well. The efficiency is a potential red herring, since the input energy is "free" in the sense that once the plant is set up, wind just keeps on turning up. So the important figure is the final cost per unit energy. This is not the only storage option which might be scalable, but it looks potentially cheap. A new form of battery using molten metals and their salts was featured a week ago in New Scientist, then there are elctrolyte flow batteries and hydrogen cells. A hydrogen cell could generate and then re-use hydrogen in a closed cycle and have essentially unlimited capacity.

PopSciGreenPower  can be incredibly inconsistent. A new gravel-battery storage scheme could cheaply store excess power when the wind is strong to supplement wind turbines when the gusts die down.

Wind and solar are such promising technologies for the hydrocarbon-free energy sources of tomorrow, but intermittent, inconsistent output renders them unfeasible as anything other than secondary power sources. But UK firm Isentropic thinks it may have solved the problem as it pertains to wind power; all we need to stabilize the energy flow from turbines are giant batteries made out of gravel.

Storage Image

The battery consists of two large silos filled with crushed rock. Electricity generated by the turbine heats and pressurizes argon gas and feeds it into the first silo. The gravel is heated to more than 900 degrees as the hot, pressurized argon passes through, though by the time the argon leaves the chamber it has cooled to ambient temperature.

The process isn't a perfect closed energy loop, but Isentropic claims a complete trip through the cycle retains up to 80 percent of the original electricity. Even better, gravel is cheap; the cost per kilowatt-hour falls somewhere between $10 and $55, depending on the costs of other materials. Isentropic also claims the batteries are highly durable; according to the company's founder, a 164-foot tall silo with an equal diameter would retain half its energy even if left untouched for three years.

[Guardian, Isentropic]

Katrina Caused More Than 200 Hazmat Releases

According to comprehensive research using government incident databases, about 8 million gallons of petroleum releases were reported as a result of Katrina hitting the U.S. Gulf Coast in 2005, nearly 75 percent of the total volume of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska. The releases were largely due to storage tank failure and the shut down and restart of production processes.
The study "Petroleum and Hazardous Material Releases from Industrial Facilities Associated with Hurricane Katrina" appears in the April issue of Risk Analysis published by the Society for Risk Analysis.

Ten onshore releases of petroleum products were greater than 10,000 gallons each, primarily made up of crude oil that leaked from storage tanks. Fewer and smaller releases were reported from chemical and manufacturing industries handling hazardous materials. Of the releases from onshore facilities and storage tanks, 76 percent were petroleum, 18 percent were chemicals and six percent were natural gas. Many refineries and other facilities shut down in anticipation of large storms to minimize damage and prevent process upsets and are required to do so for safety purposes. However, shutdowns and restarts have the disadvantage of leading to potentially large emissions of volatile organic compounds, particulate matter, and other chemicals.

"More attention should be given to planning for shutdowns, including coordination with government entities responsible for evacuation, and to plant startup after an emergency shutdown in order to minimize burning off excess gas by flaring and other releases," according to the authors. For example, storage tanks can be filled with water and other steps can be taken to mitigate damage during severe storms and floods.

"Chemical accident prevention and emergency response regulations in the U.S. and elsewhere generally do not address the threat of natural hazards directly. While many companies are proactive in taking steps to mitigate natural hazard risk, others may make only the minimum effort require by statute," the authors conclude.

Please read full at EP Online

Hyperion - The real Deal In MicroReactors?

NextBigFuture: The first model is a uranium nitride reactor that will sell for $45-70 million "all in" and provide 25 MW of electrical power. The company was told teh NRC will start evaluation February of 2011. (Inc Magazine)
Deal gives a quick sketch of how his nuclear plant works: A room-size reactor is buried underground, where the uranium fuel heats up metal, which in turn heats up water sent to a conventional electricity-generating steam turbine above-ground.

"The top question you'll get from your customers," he continues, "will be about safety and security." And that just happens to be Hyperion's strong point. He goes on to describe how the more conventionally designed mini nuke offerings from other competitors resemble "big teakettles," in which boiling water around the nuclear core provides cooling and heat transfer, with a "real potential for failure." (No turbine water runs through Hyperion's metal-filled reactor.)
Hyperion- "Our reactor is more like a battery," Deal says. Bad guys can't get at the sealed core, he says, and even if they could, they wouldn't be able to do anything with the molten, non-weapons-grade mess. "We're not quite as efficient as the others," he admits. "But who cares? We're about safety and security, and we make our price point."

Related from NextBigFuture
The Berrylium fuel research project at Purdue University has developed a new fuel pellet, which includes beryllium oxide in addition to uranium oxide. The result is a pellet with superior heat conductivity and longer service life aimed at increasing power output, reducing pellet degradation and lengthening the time period between fuel recharge cycles. The pellet can be used with existing fuel rod and reactor designs.

This "skeleton" of beryllium oxide enables the nuclear fuel to conduct heat at least 50 percent better than conventional fuels. Because uranium oxide does not conduct heat well, during a reactor's operation there is a large temperature difference between the center of the pellets and their surface, causing the center of the fuel pellets to become very hot. The heat must be constantly removed by a reactor cooling system because overheating could cause the fuel rods to melt, which could lead to a catastrophic nuclear accident and release of radiation – the proverbial "meltdown."

Mr. EPA of Sustainability Goes To Washington

Paul T. Anastas is a scientific evangelist. More specifically, he is a green chemistry and green engineering evangelist, which should not be surprising as he is generally regarded as one of the "fathers" of the green chemistry movement.

However, as the new assistant administrator in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Research & Development (ORD) and EPA's science adviser, Anastas is in a unique position to put his evangelism into practice. At the American Chemical Society national meeting in San Francisco last month, where he delivered a keynote address (C&EN, March 29, page 7), Anastas sat down with C&EN to discuss his role at EPA and the challenges he faces.

Anastas, who is also the Teresa & H. John Heinz III Professor in the Practice of Chemistry for the Environment at Yale University and director of Yale's Center for Green Chemistry & Green Engineering, was nominated to the EPA post in May 2009. His nomination was put on hold in the Senate for seven months over an issue unrelated to Anastas; he was confirmed on Dec. 24, 2009.
"It is a new day at EPA," Anastas said. "EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson made it clear from our first conversation that science has an essential, central role in everything we do, every decision we make, how we go about pursuing our mission."
Early in our discussion, Anastas referred to a speech Jackson had given in early March at the National Press Club in which she had said, "It's time to put to rest the notion that economic growth and environmental protection are incompatible. It's time to finally dismiss this false choice."

"That is a recognition that environmental protection and good economics can work hand in hand," Anastas observed. "For so long at EPA, we have been excellent at deeply understanding problems—the challenges in environmental health, human health—and quantifying, characterizing, and reviewing those problems. What's happening now is that we're complementing that understanding with a solutions orientation. Instead of just telling folks what's wrong, we're also saying, 'Here's how we are going to address those problems.' " 

Please read more at American Chemical Society

U.S. approves first offshore wind farm

Mongabay - The Obama Administration has approved the nation's first offshore wind farm after more than eight years of legal challenges, reports the Associated Press.

Speaking Wednesday in Boston, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said the $2 billion Cape Wind project marks "a new direction in our nation's energy future."

The 130-turbine, 420-megawatt wind farm will generate enough electricity to power 400,000 houses. The facility will cover 24 square miles (62 square km) roughly 5 miles (8 km) off the Nantucket Sound, Massachusetts. The turbines, which will be more than 400-feet tall, will be visible from the coast.

Until Salazar's announcement, the project had been held up by strong opposition from local residents, who said the turbines would be an eyesore; environmentalists, who worried about the impact on birds and whales; and two Indian tribes, who were concerned that the project would "interfere with sacred rituals and desecrate long-submerged tribal burial sites," according to the AP.

Salazar echoed the sentiment during his speech in Boston.

"I am approving the Cape Wind project. This will be the first of many projects up and down the Atlantic coast."

Please read full at

e-Waste Defined

From the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center - Sustainable Electronics Initiative, 2010.

Thanks always to Laura Barnes (P2-Pays!)

Growing Gulf oil spill prompts lawmakers to rethink offshore drilling

Ahhh... duh.

The oil spill spreading across the Gulf of Mexico is sending ripples through Florida and national politics, giving Gov. Charlie Crist a reason to withdraw his support for offshore drilling. - GreenChange


NewsWeek - Last September, the Transocean's Deep Horizon drill rig was that it had successfully drilled the deepest vertical well in history....Seven months later though, with the Deep Horizon destroyed and 11 people dead, releasing one of the largest oil spills in history.

Apr 28, 2010

biofuel effect on the international oil market

Sorry Berkeley... nice paper misses the point that the small decrease in cartel controlled market pricing hardly justifies or offsets the food or commodity price increases of biofuels or the massive toll it takes on freshwater and forest resources?

University of California-Berkeley, derives a method to quantify the impact of biofuel on fuel markets, assuming that these markets are dominated by cartel of oil-rich countries, and that prices in these countries are set to maximize the sum of domestic consumer and producer surplus, leading to a wedge between domestic and international fuel prices..., we show that the introduction of biofuels reduces global fossil fuel consumption and international fuel prices by about 1% and 2%, respectively.  Full Paper

In short, we see not the production of a "green" fuel but rather an ecological calamity in service of the idea of green fuel: a highly profitable travesty masquerading as a "solution."

The humble battery: 210 years later, the breakthrough we still await

"I am hoping battery tech gets a whole lot better - fast. Jim " arc-ion.com
Sorry Daugherty... Hoping for a true 'breakthrough' may be bleak.

Invented in 1799 by Alessandro Volta, it not only has yet to be perfected, but has operated all along on essentially the same chemical principles.

Were that it were different: If engineers could figure out how to store sufficient electricity in a sufficiently small, light, safe container, there would be a cascading revolution -- in super-utilities, electric cars, laptops and mobile phones. With the possibility of a trillion-dollar industry at stake - (Review of new book)  read more

Haase - "Energy Storage" will (must) get better, even the latest batteries I am afraid have vast economic and environmental challenges to ever make their integration into scale grid load feasible.   In the next decade when we need them? - Nope

The "real tech of batteries" has not evolved in decades and the 'high tech' of them is as finite as the rare earth metals that are not plentiful enough to support it in large scale.

And for every hint of hope I see, there are 100's of scams eating grants, investor and tax payer money up.

Petroleum may not be the fossil fuel everybody thinks...

Interesting theory... But, I am bothered this is called a 'new theory' and 'for the first time' when the idea of Abiogenic petroleum dates back to late 1800's (like batteries and electric cars ;-).
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EurekaAlert - The oil and gas that fuels our homes and cars started out as living organisms that died, were compressed, and heated under heavy layers of sediments in the Earth's crust. Scientists have debated for years whether some of these hydrocarbons could also have been created deeper in the Earth and formed without organic matter. Now for the first time, scientists have found that ethane and heavier hydrocarbons can be synthesized under the pressure-temperature conditions of the upper mantle —the layer of Earth under the crust and on top of the core. The research was conducted by scientists at the Carnegie Institution's Geophysical Laboratory, with colleagues from Russia and Sweden, and is published in the July 26, advanced on-line issue of Nature Geoscience.

Methane (CH4) is the main constituent of natural gas, while ethane (C2H6) is used as a petrochemical feedstock. Both of these hydrocarbons, and others associated with fuel, are called saturated hydrocarbons because they have simple, single bonds and are saturated with hydrogen. Using a diamond anvil cell and a laser heat source, the scientists first subjected methane to pressures exceeding 20 thousand times the atmospheric pressure at sea level and temperatures ranging from 1,300 F° to over 2,240 F°. These conditions mimic those found 40 to 95 miles deep inside the Earth. The methane reacted and formed ethane, propane, butane, molecular hydrogen, and graphite. The scientists then subjected ethane to the same conditions and it produced methane. The transformations suggest heavier hydrocarbons could exist deep down. The reversibility implies that the synthesis of saturated hydrocarbons is thermodynamically controlled and does not require organic matter.

The scientists ruled out the possibility that catalysts used as part of the experimental apparatus were at work, but they acknowledge that catalysts could be involved in the deep Earth with its mix of compounds.

Read full at EurekaAlert

Apr 27, 2010

Half a trillion spent on fossil fuel subsidies mostly "a complete waste of money"

Despite burning up our finite fossil fuels, governments around the world still spend 500 billion US dollars a year subsidizing fossil fuel industries. A new study from the Global Subsidies Initiative (GSI) of the International Institute for Sustainable Development looks at the difficult political situation behind ending fossil fuel subsidies.

Please more by Jeremy Hance at MongaBay

United States has higher percentage of forest loss than Brazil

Forests continue to decline worldwide, according to a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS). Employing satellite imagery researchers found that over a million square kilometers of forest were lost around the world between 2000 and 2005. This represents a 3.1 percent loss of total forest as estimated from 2000.

Yet the study reveals some surprises: including the fact that from 2000 to 2005 both the United States and Canada had higher percentages of forest loss than even Brazil.

Read more by Jeremy Hance at mongabay

GreenChange - No CleanCoal, ClimateBill and Offshore drilling DOA

Good posts this week from GreenChange
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BPA hormone disruptor now contaminates Earth's oceans

At least you can avoid plastics and therefore avoid exposure to the BPA, right?
Unfortunately, another group of scientists has just announced that's getting harder and harder to do. Bottom line: there is now solid evidence that Earth's oceans have been contaminated on a global scale with BPA.

The March issue of the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, researchers have reported yet another newly discovered danger posed by BPA.

Katsuhiko Saido, Ph.D., of Nihon University in Chiba, Japan, and his colleagues announced their startling and worrisome findings at the 239th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society held in San Francisco recently. He stated that the massive BPA contamination of oceans resulted from hard plastic trash thrown in the seas as well as from another surprising source -- the epoxy plastic paints used to seal the hulls of ships.

"This new finding clearly demonstrates the instability of epoxy, and shows that BPA emissions from epoxy do reach the ocean. Recent studies have shown that mollusks, crustaceans and amphibians could be affected by BPA, even in low concentrations," Dr. Saido said in a statement to the media.

The scientists noted that light, white-foamed plastic decomposed rapidly at temperatures commonly found in the oceans, releasing the endocrine disruptor BPA. It isn't just soft plastics that leach BPA, either.

"We were quite surprised to find that polycarbonate plastic biodegrades in the environment," Dr. Saido explained. "Polycarbonates are very hard plastics, so hard they are used to make screwdriver handles, shatter-proof eyeglass lenses, and other very durable products. This finding challenges the wide public belief that hard plastics remain unchanged in the environment for decades or centuries. Biodegradation, of course, releases BPA to the environment."

Dr. Saido's research team analyzed sand and seawater from over 200 sites in 20 countries, including areas in Southeast Asia and North America. Every site tested contained what Dr. Saido labeled as "significant" amounts of BPA, ranging from 0.01 parts per million (ppm) to 50 ppm.

Dr. Saido pointed out that littering currently results in about 150,000 tons of plastic debris washing up on the shores of Japan alone each year. In addition, a huge area of plastic waste known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is about two times the size of Texas, now contaminates the area between California and Hawaii. "Marine debris plastic in the ocean will certainly constitute a new global ocean contamination for long into the future," Dr. Saido predicted in the press statement.

"We're doomed to live with yesterday's plastic pollution and we are exacerbating the situation with each day of unchanged behavior," Dr. Harden said in a press statement. "We are at a critical juncture and cannot continue under the modus that has been established. If we're smart, we'll look for replacement materials, so that we don't have this mismatch -- good for a minute and contaminating for 10,000 years."

For more information:

Bayer admits GMO contamination out of control

(NaturalNews) Drug and chemical giant Bayer AG has admitted that there is no way to stop the uncontrolled spread of its genetically modified crops.

"Even the best practices can't guarantee perfection," said Mark Ferguson, the company's defense lawyer in a recent trial.

Two Missouri farmers sued Bayer for contaminating their crop with modified genes from an experimental strain of rice engineered to be resistant to the company's Liberty-brand herbicide. The contamination occurred in 2006, during an open field test of the new rice, which was not approved for human consumption. According to the plaintiffs' lawyer, Don Downing, genetic material from the unapproved rice contaminated more than 30 percent of all rice cropland in the United States.

"Bayer was supposed to be careful," Downing said. "Bayer was not careful and that rice did escape into our commercial rice supplies."

The plaintiffs alleged that in addition to contaminating their fields, Bayer further harmed them financially by undermining their export market. When the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the widespread rice contamination, important export markets were closed to U.S. producers. A report from Greenpeace International estimates the financial damage of the contamination at between $741 million and $1.3 billion.

Bayer claimed that there was no possible way it could have prevented the contamination, insisting that it followed not only the law but also the best industry practices.

Read more at (NaturalNews)


Apr 26, 2010

Renewable extremes, things are going to be awkward.

There is an interesting paper in the most recent issue of PNAS by Kempton et al, Electric Power from Offshore Wind by Synoptic-Scale Interconnection. The paper is in a tradition of literature looking at how to solve the problem that renewables are intermittent by averaging over production in a wide geographical area - on the theory that the wind must be blowing (or the sun shining) somewhere. In this particular paper, the region studied is the US east coast. This map shows the study sites S1 - S11:

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As you can see, the individual sites are extremely noisy, and the composite signal (the Pgrid at the bottom) is smoother and doesn't fluctuate as extremely. Thus the paper claims:
In the study region, using our meteorologically designed scale and orientation, we find that transmission affects output by reducing variance, slowing the rate of change, and, during the study period, eliminating hours of zero production. The result is that electric power from wind would become easier to manage, higher in market value, and capable of becoming a higher fraction of electric generation (thus more CO2 displacement).

...the east coast is not really where the wind is. This map from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory shows the distribution:

A very important point: the power in the wind is proportional to the cube of the wind speed, so those purplish regions in the high plains have about 10 times the potential per unit area of the yellowish-green regions on the coasts. That's where the wind is. And clearly, by feeding wind into the grid across the US, the performance is going to be smoother again, since a single high cannot cover the whole country.

It seems like with renewables, when feeding small amounts into a mainly fossil fuel grid, that's workable as they basically displace fuel use when they are available, but don't displace much capacity so the fossil fuel plants are still there to smooth the renewables out. An all-renewables grid would also be possible, but requires averaging over huge areas (and/or enormous amounts of storage). In between those extremes, things are going to be awkward.

In the study region, using our meteorologically designed scale and orientation, we find that transmission affects output by reducing variance, slowing the rate of change, and, during the study period, eliminating hours of zero production. The result is that electric power from wind would become easier to manage, higher in market value, and capable of becoming a higher fraction of electric generation (thus more CO2 displacement).

Please read full from EarlyWarning

NOTE: Gary said... The variability of surface winds is one of the main reasons that high altitude wind power (HAWP) looks more attractive (as well as the higher wind speeds). Looking at the east coast, one of the best locations for HAWP is near metropolitan New York. Here is (Gary's) post on this subject

This paper by Archer and Caldeira considers the intermittency problem for the New York area utilizing large battery storage for low wind periods. 

DOE Solar Competition Team Builds House To Run on Sun, Rain, Wind, and Wastes

A team of University of Maryland students, faculty and mentors has earned one of 20 coveted spots in the international U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011 to be staged on the National Mall next year.

For the Decathlon, the Maryland team is constructing a house to run on solar power, as well as harness wind, rain and the building's wastes. Its features include an edible wall.

WaterShed, strives to create a mini-eco-system, that efficiently captures and fully utilizes the energy of sun, wind and rain, as well as household 'wastes' that retain valuable energy and nutritional resources.

The house is formed by two rectangular units capped by a butterfly roof, which is well-suited to capturing and using sunlight and rainwater. The spacious and affordable house features:

  • A rooftop photovoltaic array;
  • An edible green wall and garden;
  • Innovative, smart technologies to control temperature, ventilation, humidity, and light;
  • Building and finish materials that are beautiful, sustainable, cost-effective and durable.
  • "Our goal for WaterShed is to produce an eco-system whose efficiency comes from the interconnectedness of building, site, and the people who inhabit them," says Gardner.

    Please read more at UMD.edu

    Another Giant Garbage Patch Found in the Atlantic Ocean

    pacific gyre, pacific garbage patch, atlantic garbage patch, plastic, ocean, pollution, litter

    If you thought the Great Pacific Garbage Patch was a nightmare, things just got worse — it has a twin. As Plastiki makes its way across the Pacific to raise awareness about plastic in the oceans, scientists have found a matching patch in the Atlantic Ocean that stretches for thousands of square miles. The news doesn't stop there — scientists warn the phenomenon is likely to exist in still more places around the globe.  Read on at Inhabitat

    Coke Cans Still Contain BPA, Shareholders Outraged

    Sharholders of Coca-Cola will vote today on a measure to force the soft drink company to go public on their plans to eliminate bisphenol A (or BPA) from the lining of their beverage cans. Coke apparently removed the chemical from their plastic bottles but chose to keep it in the epoxy liners of the aluminum cans. We find it outrageous that coke would continue to manufacture and distribute cans containing the endocrine-disrupting chemical, read on at Inhabitat

    Apr 24, 2010

    New Canadian eco-village

    OffGrid- A rural Canadian town is boosting its population by offering newcomers the chance to build a sustainable community from scratch and live off the grid. CBC's The Passionate Eye followed the residents' first year in the eco-village in Craik, Saskatchewan, about 80 kilometres north of Moose Jaw, resulting in the Eco-Home Adventures documentary, available to watch online.

    Very neat project with community...real sustainability.

    YOU charge your electronic device

    Charge Your Phone With Your Own Power - Now you can recharge your small electronic devices with your own power through a small renewable energy tool called Clipray. It's a good and cheap of American Red Cross-endorsed emergency products that you will need in an emergency power needs of your small electronic devices.
    The small device for $15 is has a small crank mechanism which can rotate to generate electrical energy that can be stored or used directly. Clipray also equipped by LED flashlight which can be used any time during the appliance still save electricity.
    Read More at AltEnergy

    Stiffer OSHA penalties straining relationships

    OSHA ups the ante on citation fines
    DailyReporter - Stiffer penalties are threatening an already tempestuous relationship between builders and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

    "But, also," he said, "I would say the inspections are more thorough."

    The agency this year will increase the maximum fines allowed for citations. The maximum penalty for a serious violation will increase from $7,000 to $12,000. The maximum fine for willful citations will increase from $70,000 to $250,000. On Thursday, the agency also rolled out a new program to target repeat offenders of agency safety priorities, such as fall protection and trenching safety.

    Scott Allen, spokesman for the OSHA Midwest region, said the new regulations are a step toward being tougher on companies caught violating safety rules. That nationwide strategy already is taking place, he said, and includes the higher fines construction companies are receiving.

    "What we hope it means," Allen said, "is that they will be more conscious of what their responsibilities are for following these OSHA regulations."

    Inspectors in Wisconsin are increasingly issuing citations for the maximum fine, said Brad Stehno, account executive and safety consultant for R&R Insurance Services Inc., Waukesha.

    "OSHA citations over the last year or two years," he said, "they have been pushing the envelope to get more penalty from a dollar standpoint."

    Morton said he understands the best way to get companies to fall in line is to hit them in the pocketbook. But he encouraged the agency to continue to carve out time for inspectors to meet informally with builders and keep the dialogue open.
    "I hope we keep to the good teamwork, for lack of a better word, relationships," Morton said, "and I hope we can keep it that way because construction is only going to pick up."
    Please read full here and the Weekly OSHA report

    Apr 23, 2010

    7 Secret Ecological Hazards

    Seven secret polluters whose negative impact on the planet is worse than it may seem.

    Yahoo News:
    Mobile Phones, when a cell phone gets thrown out, toxic chemicals in its electronics, plastics and batteries can pollute soil and ground water if not properly handled, said Steven Cohen, an environmental specialist at Columbia University.


    The manufacturing process for concrete is carbon intensive and contributes significantly to the greenhouse effect, said Stuart Gaffin, an environmental scientist at NASA's Goddard Institute For Space Studies. Even worse, the concrete infrastructure of cities prevents rain water from entering into the soil...This excess water overwhelms metropolitan processing systems, which can then fill local waterways with human fecal bacteria and other pollutants.

    ...Growing crops, such as corn and switchgrass, in order to produce biofuels displaces farms from arable land and drives farmers to cut down forests that would otherwise absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, according to two 2008 studies in the journal Science. Additionally, producing the fertilizers needed for biofuel farming releases the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide. This negates any carbon emissions that are saved by using these fuels, said Amy Townsend-Small, a researcher in at the University of California, Irvine.

    Thanks to the expansion of portable electronics, battery use has proliferated exponentially. They contain a range of harmful chemicals, and when improperly disposed of, those toxic chemicals leach into ground water, poisoning humans and wildlife, said Cohen.

    Public Parks
    ...Manicured public lawns require water, energy and fertilizers to maintain. Similarly, artificial turf parks made from old tires can leak heavy metals into the ground, Gaffin said.

    The Internet
    ... nobody argues that the Internet consumes massive amounts of energy. The global information technology industry generates about as much carbon dioxide all airlines combined, some 2 percent of global CO2 emissions.
    Read all at Yahoo including 101 Amazing Earth Facts

    Susan Hedman to Administrator EPA's Region 5

    The environmental challenges and opportunities facing this region are great and I am glad to see Susan jump in with both feet -Haase
    "I look forward to working closely with Susan Hedman on the range of urgent environmental issues we face, in Region 5 and across the nation,"  "At this moment of great challenge and even greater opportunity, I'm thrilled that Susan will be part of our leadership team at EPA. She will certainly play an instrumental role in our Agency's mission to protect our health and the environment." - said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson.

    "Susan Hedman is great choice to lead the Environmental Protection Agency's efforts here in the Midwest. I have known and worked with Susan for many years, and she is smart, a very hard worker, and firmly committed to serving the public interest. She brings decades of experience in environmental protection around the Great Lakes region, the country, and indeed the planet. Her appointment is another strong sign that professionalism and integrity are important goals for Administrator Lisa Jackson in leading USEPA." IL sierraclub
    Her appointment is great news for all of us who love the Great Lakes, who want to protect our children from pollution, and who are ready to create good jobs in a new, clean energy economy. I know she will always put the people's interest in a healthy environment first. - IL sierraclub

    D-evil of a climate bill

    HTML clipboard"To just have one program that would preempt states and have a one-size-fits all federal approach really not only ignores the whole history of success in the environmental area but also would not be the wisest way to go in terms of either maximizing greenhouse gas reductions or to maximize the amount of job creation,"
    said Illinois Environmental Protection Agency Director Doug Scott.

    Reuters –  California and other states with aggressive environmental agendas said on Wednesday they fear a federal climate bill may unacceptably weaken their power...The federal bill is expected to include a key provision for a cap-and-trade program, which limits total greenhouse gas emissions and lets big polluters trade permits to emit.

    Similar state plans are expected to be forbidden. That would be more drastic than a moratorium on state cap-and-trade considered in a bill passed by the House of Representatives. Please read more at Reuters (Yahoo news)

    U.S. falls further behind waste-to-energy

    BigGav: The NYT has an article on generating power by incinerating waste - Europe Finds Clean Energy in Trash, but U.S. Lags.
    Far cleaner than conventional incinerators, this new type of plant converts local trash into heat and electricity. Dozens of filters catch pollutants, from mercury to dioxin, that would have emerged from its smokestack only a decade ago.

    With all these innovations, Denmark now regards garbage as a clean alternative fuel rather than a smelly, unsightly problem. And the incinerators, known as waste-to-energy plants, have acquired considerable cachet as communities like Horsholm vie to have them built.

    HTML clipboardhttp://www.seas.columbia.edu/earth/papers/global_waste_to_energy_04_416.gif
    Denmark now has 29 such plants, serving 98 municipalities in a country of 5.5 million people, and 10 more are planned or under construction. Across Europe, there are about 400 plants, with Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands leading the pack in expanding them and building new ones.

    By contrast, no new waste-to-energy plants are being planned or built in the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency says — even though the federal government and 24 states now classify waste that is burned this way for energy as a renewable fuel, in many cases eligible for subsidies. There are only 87 trash-burning power plants in the United States, a country of more than 300 million people, and almost all were built at least 15 years ago.

    Yet powerful environmental groups have fought the concept passionately. "Incinerators are really the devil," said Laura Haight, a senior environmental associate with the New York Public Interest Research Group.

    Investing in garbage as a green resource is simply perverse when governments should be mandating recycling, she said. "Once you build a waste-to-energy plant, you then have to feed it. Our priority is pushing for zero waste."

    Read more and comment at PeakEnergy 

    DDT one of the chief bugaboos...

    In her now-famous 1962 book Silent Spring, she argued that DDT, when sprayed on a Michigan campus to halt the spread of Dutch elm disease, would spread far and wide and harm robins' ability to reproduce. 

    Carson was no doubt well-intentioned, but it turns out that she was flat out wrong about the effects of DDT. It didn't spread the way she thought it did, and no studies have ever been able to show that environmental exposure to DDT — even in large quantities — harms human health. It is less dangerous to humans than any number of natural chemicals, including some vitamins and medicines that we consume without a second thought. 

    And when used in small quantities in malaria control, DDT protects people from deadly mosquitoes. 

    The public-health benefits it confers far exceed any of the unproven, theoretical risks.

    Food Vs. Fuel: Growing Grain for Food Is More Energy Efficient

    ScienceDaily — Using productive farmland to grow crops for food instead of fuel is more energy efficient, Michigan State University scientists concluded, after analyzing 17 years' worth of data to help settle the food versus fuel debate.
    "It's 36 percent more efficient to grow grain for food than for fuel," said Ilya Gelfand, an MSU postdoctoral researcher and lead author of the study.

    "The ideal is to grow corn for food, then leave half the leftover stalks and leaves on the field for soil conservation and produce cellulosic ethanol with the other half."

    Peak Phosphorus - Peakonomics 101

    From Kansas to China, farmers treat their fields with phosphorus-rich fertilizer to increase the yield of their crops...

    Our dwindling supply of phosphorus, a primary component underlying the growth of global agricultural production, threatens to disrupt food security across the planet during the coming century. 

    This is the gravest natural resource shortage you've never heard of.

    Report: U.S. electricity demand drops

    U.S. electricity demand fell 4.2 percent last year, the largest drop in 60 years, according to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

    In the agency’s “State of the Markets Report 2009,” only three of the 11 recessions in the past 60 years have resulted in a drop in electric demand, and officials said in the report “falling power demand is rare.”

    A steep decline in the industrial sector was blamed... Read more at Austin BizJournal

    Carbon Capture and Storage: Will Raise Energy Costs and Coal Demand

    TOD - since 2007 the situation really hasn't changed much.

    Billions will be spent with the expectation is that this development will cause significant cost reductions, making the technology affordable by 2020. There are two large drawbacks, however:
    • The process is quite energy intensive, and thus will use up coal supplies faster.
    • The process is quite expensive, and can be expected to continue to be quite expensive, even as experience is gained in the process.

    Overall such processes raise the energy costs to produce the same amount of electricity in a cleaner way by 24-40% for new (supercritical) conventional coal plants using the post combustion approach and by 14% to 25% for coal based Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) systems using pre combustion.

    The effects of increased energy costs on coal depletion

    If we reflect the impact of the additional 425 million tons on coal production forecasts, the effects on available energy from coal become clearer. For this I have taken the coal production scenario from the German Energy Watch Group (pdf), released a few months ago. In this scenario peak coal production is expected around 2020-2030 with at slow declining slope. ...Furthermore the decline is much faster after the peak.

    Gas Prices, hold on....here we go

    This rig and spill will be 'much of the start' of prices that had to rise...
    Retail Prices (Cents Per Gallon)
    Retail Price Graphs.
    Retail Prices Change From Last
    04/19/10 Week Year
    Gasoline 286.0 values are up0.2 values are up80.1
    Diesel Fuel 307.4 values are up0.5 values are up85.3

    U.S. Retail Gasoline Prices - 2 1/2 years
    Watch the end of this chart by Sept 2010.

    Apr 22, 2010

    EarthDay is EveryDay

    To all EHS professionals,
    I would personally like to thank all of you for your career choice dedicated to protecting our greatest resources, “People and The Planet”.

    You have made a difference in my life and the world around you.

    Thanks again for making EarthDay, EveryDay!

    Christopher Haase 


    DOE Announces New Opportunities to Improve Commercial Building Energy

    The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced support for energy-saving commercial building projects as part of an ongoing effort by DOE to improve the energy efficiency of buildings in the United States. With money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, DOE's national laboratories will select and fund technical experts to provide technical guidance to commercial building owners and operators. The goal of this Commercial Building Partnerships (CBP) initiative is to increase the energy efficiency of selected new and existing buildings. Read full at EERE