Dec 31, 2013

Amazon forest loss and water supply are linked

Water, food supplies and energy production are all in jeopardy as the Amazon forest is felled for profit. And as Paul Brown writes, the damage is spreading well beyond Amazonia itself. The combination of industrial and agricultural pollution and droughts is creating a once unthinkable vulnerability for the five countries of Amazonia. The continued destruction of the Amazon to exploit its resources for mining, agriculture and hydro-power is threatening the future of the South American continent, according to a report by campaigning groups using the latest scientific data. Five countries - Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru - share the Amazon, and for all of them the forest area occupies more than 40% of their territory. All face threats to their water supply, energy production, food and health.

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All New Australian Power Plants Will Be Renewable Through 2020

According to the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO), all new electricity generation capacity in Australia will be from renewable energy. It will mostly be from wind energy, while 13% of that is expected to be from large-scale solar PV, and 3% from biomass.

After years of hearing very little about Australia's transition from fossil fuels, there has been Sydney's plan to go 100% renewable by 2030 and a lot of big news in 2013. But the next several years will be even bigger.

According to an IEEE article about the coming growth of renewables in Australia: "There are nearly 15 800 megawatts of proposed wind generation projects, according to the AEMO. More than 780 MW of the wind power is expected to come online in 2014-2015."

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Potential impacts from new ASTM standard for Phase I Environmental Site Assessments

LexologyFor the past eight years, the world of Phase I Environmental Site Assessments has been governed by American Society for Testing and Materials ("ASTM") Standard E1527-05. However, ASTM's policy is to review its standards every eight years, and the shelf life of the E1527-05 Standard has now passed. Borne out of ASTM's review process is the new ASTM E1527-13 Standard, published on November 6, 2013. The E1527-13 practice is intended to represent the evolving state-of-the-art in environmental due diligence protocols.While ASTM E1527-13 has not yet been blessed by the United States Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") as meeting the requirements of All Appropriate Inquiries ("AAI") under CERCLA, that designation is expected to come before long. In the meantime, in order to be eligible for the AAI protections, a party seeking to acquire a property must continue to use ASTM E1527-05 when obtaining a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment. This creates an unusual situation, since ASTM E1527-05 is likely to soon be superseded.

One option during this interim period pending the EPA's approval of ASTM E1527-13 as AAI complaint is to conduct one's Phase I Environmental Site Assessment using ASTM E1527-05, and adding certain "non-scope" items which will be standard under E1527-13. Specifically, those additional items are (1) evaluating the potential for hazardous vapors to migrate onto the target property, and (2) reviewing governmental regulatory files for the target and/or adjacent properties, if those properties are listed in a public environmental database.

There are several potential impacts that may arise once ASTM E1527-13 becomes the gold standard for AAI that businesses and individuals expecting to undertake real estate or corporate transactions in the near future should consider.

First, the new E1527-13 Standard will likely cause an increase in the cost and time required to complete a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment. ASTM Standard E1527-13 more strongly requires the environmental professional preparing the report to conduct regulatory agency file reviews when the property or adjoining properties are listed in a standard environmental records source. While some consultants already perform this review as a matter of customary practice, many others will be adding this review to their standard scope of work. As a result, various factors such as the responsiveness of a regulatory agency in responding to file requests or the sheer volume of material to be reviewed in those files could increase the anticipated turn-around time of a Phase I ESA. The increased time and work involved in preparing the Phase I ESA will almost certainly be accompanied by an increase in the consultant's fees. As a result, parties entering into purchase and sale agreements should consider negotiating longer due diligence inspection periods to ensure adequate time to complete the reviews, and should consider the potential increased costs during the budget planning process.

Are 'Harmful' weedkiller in your bread and cereal bars?

The Ecologist: Safe, pure and wholesome?

According to GM Freeze, 100% of the Jordans cereal bars tested were found to contain glyphosate. The group also says that at least 85% of tested products made by Warburtons – the well known bread company – contained traces of the herbicide.

The Government's sampling programme is not exhaustive and is designed to provide only a snapshot of residues in a variety of products at a specific time. Still, the figures speak for themselves.

Of 40 Warburtons products sampled, 34 tested positive for glyphosate. These included Warburtons white, brown and wholemeal loaves, and its crumpets. The products were sold in leading supermarkets including Tesco, Morrisons and Asda.

All five samples of Jordans cereal bars contained the herbicide. they included Jordans cranberry and raspberry, crunchy honey and almond, and red berry varieties, purchased in Sainsburys and Tesco.

The testing was carried out in 2012 but the results were only recently published in full. 

Glyphosate linked to health problems

The weedkiller residues were present in small quantities - between 0.1 and 0.8 mg/kg. This is well below the permitted EU maximum residue levels (MRLs) for cereal crops, which currently span 10 - 20 mg/kg.

However campaigners say the sheer number of positive tests for both companies "raises questions" about the use of glyphosate in their supply chains. They also highlight the absence of any MRL for herbicide levels in the bread and bakery products themselves.

"We are concerned because glyphosate has been implicated as a potential endocrine disruptor", GM Freeze director Helena Paul told The Ecologist.

"This means that it may produce adverse effects on human and animal development and reproduction, the immune system and the nervous system and these may occur at very low doses."

The group says there is a growing body of evidence suggesting the herbicide could be linked to health problems and that there should be a ban on its use on food crops and a review of the MRLs to minimise exposure to consumers.

Environmentalists point to studies which they say found that glyphosate herbicides can be toxic to humans, even at lower doses, affecting both embryonic and placental cells.

"Laboratory tests on rats have highlighted damage to testosterone levels in male offspring, while studies on cell cultures found that glyphosate blocks receptors for male sex hormones, and that it inhibits production of oestrogen", according to Friends of the Earth, which published a report on the issue earlier this year.

And a recent article on The Ecologist highlighted reports from Denmark that the health of pigs was being adversely affected by eating feeds containing elevated - but still legal - levels of glyphosate.

Monsanto: it's harmless!

Manufacturers of glyphosate vigorously dispute such claims. They insist that the herbicide is safe, and accuse campaigners of touting flawed research, or manipulating the findings to suit their own agenda.

"Extensive animal and in-vitro (test-tube) data has demonstrated that glyphosate does not cause cancer or tumors, nor is an endocrine disrupter", Thomas Helscher, spokesman for Monsanto - a major supplier of glyphosate products under its 'Roundup' brand - toldThe Ecologist.

Plastic from pollution, methane from dairy farm waste used to make AirCarbon.

...31-year-old co-founders of California-based Newlight Technologies have two factories that take methane captured from dairy farms and use it to make AirCarbon — plastic that will soon appear in the form of chairs, food containers and automotive parts. Coming next year: cellphone cases for Virgin Mobile.

"You'll be able to hold carbon in your hand," Herrema says of the products, which an independent lab says remove more carbon from the atmosphere than their manufacturing emits. By replacing oil-based plastics, he says he wants to help reduce global warming: "We actually want to change the world."

"This will be a paradigm shift in our industry," says Dick Resch, CEO of furniture maker KI, saying AirCarbon will produce the first carbon-negative furniture. KI, which has backed Newlight for eight years and holds exclusive industry rights to its product, plans next year to sell AirCarbon chairs and eventually other products.

"I wish I had been smart enough to figure this out," says William Dowd, former global director of industrial biotech research and development at Dow Chemical. He says venture capitalists asked him to look at Newlight's work, but he initially demurred, doubting it would break ground. "I was astounded by what they were able to do."

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Dec 30, 2013

Hydropower "Battery" Could Even Out Wind Energy Supply, Researchers Say

Norwegian hydropower stations could be linked to wind farms and serve as giant "batteries" to even out power supply fluctuations, a Scandinavian research organization says. A major hurdle for renewable energy suppliers is intermittent power production — sometimes too much power is generated, other times too little, and periods of peak demand often don't coincide with periods of peak supply. By using excess electricity from windy periods to pump water uphill into reservoirs, hydroelectric power stations could smooth out the intermittent power supplied by large wind farms, Scandinavian researchers from the firm SINTEF say. At times of low wind energy supply, the stored water could be released through dam turbines and hydroelectricity would fill the gap. The plan requires updating and refurbishing existing Norwegian hydropower plants, which could increase their output potential by 11 to 18 gigawatts, enough to provide an adequate backup power supply. Wind energy will be a key component of cutting EU carbon emissions by 80 to 95 percent by 2050.

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Unemployment Benefits Lapse Severs Lifeline for Longtime Jobless - Bloomberg

Americans React To End Of Jobless Benefits: 'I Just Don't Know What To Do, Except Pray'

"It lacks compassion for the victims of the recession and, economically, it's shooting ourselves in the foot," said Lawrence Mishel, the president of the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, which backs policies that help low-income workers. "The timing is very premature. The evidence is that people who want work can't find it."

"The economy has now been out of a recession for more than four years," said Chris Edwards, an economist with the Cato Institute in Washington, which argues for scaling back the role of government. "These unemployment benefits are emergency benefits, but the economy is no longer in an emergency situation. People can find jobs if they are willing to moderate their wage demands and make compromises."

"Not all of us have savings and a lot of us have to take care of family because of what happened in the economy," said Walker, of Santa Clarita, who said she has applied for at least three jobs a week and shares an apartment with her unemployed son, his wife and two children. "It's going to put my family and me out on the streets."

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China Says 8 Million Acres Of Farmland Is Now Too Polluted For Food

An official from the Chinese government announced Monday that approximately 3.33 million hectares, or 8 million acres, of China's farmland is now too polluted to grow crops, according to a Reuters report from Beijing.

China's Vice Minister of Land and Resources Wang Shiyuan reportedly told a news conference that current farming on the now-too-contaminated land — roughly the size of Belgium — will be halted and rehabilitated in order to ensure food safety. It was unclear late Monday whether food that had already been grown on that land would be sought out or recalled.

"These areas cannot continue farming," Wang said, noting that the Ministry of Environmental Protection had deemed all of the 8 million acres as having "moderate to severe pollution."

The Chinese government has said that the country needs at least 120 million hectares of arable land to ensure it is able to meet the vastly populated country's food needs. Though China started 2013 with a strong 135 million hectares of arable land, contamination — paired with recent efforts to convert farmland to forests, grasslands and wetlands — has caused the amount of stable cultivated land to drop to 120 million hectares, Wang said. Wang also said the country is committed to spending "tens of billions of yuan" a year for projects aimed at rehabilitating polluted land.

#Solar Micro-Grid Aims to Boost Power and Food in Haiti

On Haiti's southern peninsula, the town of Les Anglais rises alongside a snaking river prone to seasonal swells. Some 400 homes and businesses form the downtown core within a wider community of roughly 30,000 people.

Most of them are among the 75 percent of Haitians, and the 1.2 billion people around the world, who live without access to electricity. But a new model for connecting homes and businesses to clean, reliable power using smart meters, solar panels, and a small, independent power grid is being put to the test in Les Anglais. The idea is to combine these ingredients into a recipe for sustainable economic growth—in part by supplying power to process local crops that would otherwise rot before arriving at markets.

Led by the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit EarthSpark International, the project is one of a dozen initiatives awarded a total of $13 million in funding this month from the U.S. Agency for International Development and its partners under a program calledPowering Agriculture: A Grand Challenge for Development. EarthSpark and the 11 other winners, chosen from 475 applicants, are to use the money to design and deploy market-based projects that integrate clean energy technology into the agriculture sector in 14 developing countries. EarthSpark also is a grantee in National Geographic's Great Energy Challenge initiative.

As the world's population throttles upward and demand grows for middle class diets and lifestyles—at the same time that climate change exacerbates pressure on resources—scientists, policymakers and aid groups increasingly are recognizing links between food, energy and water. These new grants touch on part of that nexus, aiming to help farmers and agricultural businesses in low-income countries gain access to renewable energy technologies as a way to increase production and add value to their goods. 

We spoke with EarthSpark president Allison Archambault about the group's work and vision for Les Anglais and beyond. The following excerpts from our conversation have been edited for length and clarity.

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Also See related story: "Five Surprising Facts About Energy Poverty."

Dec 29, 2013

Chemicals and kids can be a deadly combination

Surprisingly, children's environmental health is still a new field. Many medical conditions result from what youngsters breathe in, eat, drink and touch. A recent international conference in Jerusalem discussed the issues. 
Chemicals and kids can be a deadly combination Photo: MCT More than 80,000 new chemicals have been developed and released into the environment in the past four decades. And during the same period, the rates of birth defects, autism, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, asthma and other disorders that affect children have increased. Is this a coincidence, or have all these chemicals increased the prevalence of such disorders among infants, children and teens? Not all the evidence is in, but the field of children's environmental health has grown, as researchers have been studying the influence of chemicals and pollutants on youngsters. They are reaching the conclusion that there is a "window of susceptibility" during which exposure to such substances can trigger changes in cells that lead to disease and disability in youngsters.

The Seventh International Conference on Children's Health and the Environment, called "A Healthier World for Our Children" was held recently at Jerusalem's Dan Panorama Hotel, where an interdisciplinary group of scientists compared notes. It was initiated and hosted by Prof.

Yona Amitai, a toxicologist and pediatrician who served for eight years as head of the Health Ministry's Department of Mother, Child and Adolescent Health (and is now at Bar-Ilan University's department of management), and by Prof. Peter van den Hazel, board chairman of the International Network on Children's Health, Environment and Safety (INCHES).

This is a global network of people and organizations interested in promoting the protection of children from environmental and safety hazards, and it distributes data and initiates research on the relationship between environmental factors and child health.

Dec 28, 2013

China targets cement, batteries, metals in anti-pollution push | said it will tackle the environmental costs of more than three decades of unbridled growth.

(Reuters) - China will raise standards for the production of cement, batteries, leather and heavy metals as part of its efforts to cut air, water and soil pollution, the environment ministry said on Friday.

Beijing, facing growing public anger over smog, contaminated food and unclean water, has said it will tackle the environmental costs of more than three decades of unbridled growth.

It has promised to get tough with under-regulated industries such as cement, iron and steeland coal but the central government has traditionally struggled to impose its will on powerful industrial sectors and local governments.

According to a notice issued by the Ministry of Environmental Protection (, China produced 2.21 billion tons of cement in 2012, 56 percent of the global total. Beijing aims to close around 370 million tons of outdated capacity by 2015.

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Why Did #EPA Withdraw Drinking #Water Protections?

Pagosa Springs Daily News: Earlier with week, the EPA Inspector General found EPA Region 6 was justified in legally intervening to protect Parker County residents' drinking water from drilling impacts. At Senator James Inhofe's request, the Inspector General investigated to determine if Region 6's intervention against Range Resources was due to political influence by the Obama administration.

"The EPA's internal watchdog has confirmed that the EPA was justified in stepping in to protect residents who were and still are in imminent danger," said Sharon Wilson, Gulf Regional Organizer of Earthworks. She continued, "Now we need an investigation as to whether political corruption caused EPA to withdraw that protection."

EPA invoked its power to protect drinking water in 2010, prompting Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe to request the Inspector General's investigation in 2011. EPA withdrew its legal complaint against Range Resources in 2012 despite having a report from an independent scientist showing that a gas well drilled by Range likely polluted nearby water supplies.

EPA's withdrawal from Parker County appears to be part of a larger pattern, in which the Obama administration has blocked or abandoned investigations of whether drilling or hydraulic fracturing polluted drinking water.  In addition to the case in Parker County, reports in major news outlets indicate that the Obama administration caused the EPA to abandon studies of potential drilling or fracking pollution in Pavillion, WY and Dimock, PA despite evidence of drilling-related harm.

Expect CNG #Energy Price Hike as Tax Credit Expires, prices could explode 30%

Compressed natural gas (CNG) prices at the pump for cars and trucks will increase 30 percent at some stations because of a federal tax credit set to expire Jan. 31, FuelFix reports.

Most stations use the incentive — a 50-cent tax credit on each gasoline gallon-equivalent of natural gas sold — to cover costs.

Want to find a deformed frogs, look down stream of big agricultural

More than a decade ago, way back in 1995, a group of middle school students visited a wetland in Minnesota and found something kind of creepy: a population of deformed frogs, with missing or shrunken limbs. This wasn't just bad news for the frogs, as the Anchorage Daily News reports: "Scientists consider frogs to be barometers for the health of wetlands because they absorb liquid and gas through their skin, so they literally breathe their environment."

If there were frogs missing legs, that meant the wetland probably wasn't doing so hot. And the Fish and Wildlife Service started worrying this might be true, elsewhere, too. So the agency convinced Congress to fund "the largest national study of frog deformities ever conducted." Scientists visited 152 wildlife refuges across the country and checked out 68,000 frogs for general weirdness.

It took a decade, but now scientists have identified three spots that are most likely to yield freak frogs — a pair of wildlife refuges in Alaska (where long-banned toxins have taken a long, long time to disappear from the environment), California's Central Valley (one of the more polluted agricultural areas in the country), and Mississippi's River Valley (another agricultural area). Turns out agricultural runoff isn't great for wetlands.

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Obesity, alcoholism, and chronic hepatitis all increase the risk of getting liver cancer, which is the third leading cause of cancer death worldwide.

Sciencedaily— Obesity, alcoholism, and chronic hepatitis all increase the risk of getting liver cancer, which is the third leading cause of cancer death worldwide. Obesity in particular is driving a significant increase in liver cancer in the United States. These three health problems also increase cellular stress in the liver, but until now it has not been clear if there is a direct biological link between cellular stress and the development of liver cancer.

In a new study, University of Iowa researchers have identified an unexpected molecular link between liver cancer, cellular stress, and these health problems that increase the risk of developing this cancer.

The study, published Dec. 19 in the journal PLOS Genetics, shows that a protein called CHOP, which had previously been thought to generally protect against cancer, actually promotes liver cancer in mice and may do the same in humans.

"Obesity, alcoholism, and viral hepatitis are all known independently to cause cellular stress and to induce expression of CHOP," says Thomas Rutkowski, Ph.D., assistant professor of anatomy and cell biology in the UI Carver College of Medicine and senior study author. "So this finding suggests a biological pathway that links those 'upstream' health problems to liver cancer at the end."

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Happy Birthday, Dear Endangered Species Act!

Forty years ago — on December 28, 1973 — President Richard Nixon signed the Endangered Species Act (ESA) into law. This landmark legislation has defined America's commitment to wildlife conservation ever since. The ESA and other bedrock environmental laws such as the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts affirm for all Americans that we are a nation dedicated to conserving our natural heritage for future generations — through our national parks and refuges, through clean air and water, and by protecting our wildlife.

In the four decades since the ESA's passage, more than 1,200 plants and animals in the United States, inclduing our national symbol, the bald eagle, have put been under the law's protection.

In the four decades since the ESA's passage, more than 1,200 plants and animals in the United States have put been under the law's protection. The act has been essential to a range of conservation success stories. The brown pelican, the American alligator, and the grizzly bear — along with our national symbol, the bald eagle — have all experienced amazing comebacks thanks to the ESA.

KIMBERLEY DELFINO, California, offers an inspiring example of the ESA in action. The Golden State may be the most populous in the nation — a place more often associated with freeways and traffic jams than with wildlife roaming the forests and deserts — but California is also the location of some of the ESA'sgreatest successes. Some of the species that have been protected by the ESA call California home, including the El Segundo blue butterfly and the southern sea otter which are found only in California's Central Coast and Southern regions, while the humpback whale, green sea turtle, peregrine falcon and bald eagle have ranges across California and its coastline.

Such success stories prove that we can protect imperiled species and improve California's economy and infrastructure at the same time. And they also demonstrate that when we work together to protect our nation's wildlife and public lands, we reap numerous benefits — tangible and intangible — in the process.

People travel from all across the United States and from around the world to visit California's majestic parks and wildlife refuges — Yosemite, Death Valley, Joshua Tree, and San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge. Our state's iconic plants and animals are legendary — towering redwoods, spawning salmon, California condors and desert tortoises.  

A Tour of Solar Home that Uses 10 Solar Principles located in "ski country", with NO furnace

"Located in the cooler central Utah climate at 6,000 foot elevation, the Allan's solar home integrates at least ten different forms of solar, including: trombe wall, solarium convection, photovoltaic cells, propylene-glycol heat exchange, eutectic salt chamber, berm insulation, black chimneys and under-ground intake for passive solar air conditioning, and dehydration of food."

Here's a photo from about 5 years ago of the David and Edna Allan solar home, which has no furnace, but has stayed adequately warm all winter for two decades now. Note the cross country ski poles in the foreground, which is how David (and Edna sometimes) stays fit when there is too much snow for him to go mountain biking. He typically goes around 7 miles / day, 4-5 times each week on his mountain bike, on a course that involves an 800 foot change in elevation, and that's not counting the intermediate ups and downs along the way. My son and nephew and I joined him yesterday for a short version of his trek, and were impressed both by the view, the rigor of the path, and his stamina.

Sterling D. AllanTwenty years ago, my parents began construction on one of the most amazing solar homes in the world in Fountain Green, Utah. I count nine solar principles involved, two of which are active, with the remainder being passive.

Located at an elevation of 6,000 feet, in what is commonly thought of as 
"ski country", with winter temperatures dipping as low as -20 ºF, the home does not have a furnace, but is heated by a combination of solar concepts compiled and designed by my Dad. He is an atomic clock physicist from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Boulder, Colorado, where I grew up. My mom is responsible for most of the vegetation, including the planting and knowledge of the use of herbs for health and healing. My dad said he doesn't remember a single time in which the home has gotten cooler than 50 ºF.

While many of the solar principles are in use widely elsewhere (photovoltaic and solar thermal system), there are some that are much more scarce (the Trombe wall, the passive solarium air cycling, and the berm insulation principle), and some that are nearly completely underappreciated (the eutectic salt chamber, and the solar air conditioner), from which entire industries could spring to provide the tools, resources, and design work for people to implement them. The geodesic dome greenhouse and the wood chip gardening also demonstrate forward thinking in the most ancient of solar technologies: gardening.

After two decades, yesterday, finally, I was given permission to shoot a video tour of the home. 

Here's a photo I took of my dad at the entry of the home, featuring the "TRUTH IS LIGHT" keystone, which came from a granite rock that the builder, Alan Wright, procured from a refurbishment of the Salt Lake temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormon).

Since completing the home in 1992, they've had a continual stream of around 100 visitors a year, mostly friends and acquaintances wanting to check out the home. Not only do people enjoy the science, but they love the ambiance of the home and its beautiful surroundings, with mountains on three sides, including Mt. Nebo to the north. (The next town to the south is Jerusalem, consisting of maybe three homes and 5 turkey sheds.)

But until now, they have not agreed to do a video of the home. The reluctance over the years has come from several reasons, including wanting to stay under the radar, and privacy.

Last week, catching them right after they happened to have tidied up the home, my parents let me do a live web cam tour of the home as part of my "This Week in Free Energy" segment on the SmartScarecrow show. Unfortunately, the resolution on that was very poor. So yesterday, while I was visiting, my Dad agreed to do a video tour with me using a better camera. So now, thousands can benefit from their wisdom.

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Former BP geologist: peak oil is here and it will 'break economies'

The Guardian has an article on a recent lecture by Richard Miller -Former BP geologist: peak oil is here and it will 'break economies'.
A former British Petroleum (BP) geologist has warned that the age of cheap oil is long gone, bringing with it the danger of "continuous recession" and increased risk of conflict and hunger.

At a lecture on 'Geohazards' earlier this month as part of the postgraduate Natural Hazards for Insurers course at University College London (UCL), Dr. Richard G. Miller, who worked for BP from 1985 before retiring in 2008, said that official data from the International Energy Agency (IEA), US Energy Information Administration (EIA), International Monetary Fund (IMF), among other sources, showed that conventional oil had most likely peaked around 2008.

Dr. Miller critiqued the official industry line that global reserves will last 53 years at current rates of consumption, pointing out that "peaking is the result of declining production rates, not declining reserves." Despite new discoveries and increasing reliance on unconventional oil and gas, 37 countries are already post-peak, and global oil production is declining at about 4.1% per year, or 3.5 million barrels a day (b/d) per year:

"We need new production equal to a new Saudi Arabia every 3 to 4 years to maintain and grow supply... New discoveries have not matched consumption since 1986. We are drawing down on our reserves, even though reserves are apparently climbing every year. Reserves are growing due to better technology in old fields, raising the amount we can recover – but production is still falling at 4.1% p.a. [per annum]."

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On-the-job deaths increase 100% as oil drilling quickly expands.

As baby boomers retire and drilling increases, oil and gas companies are hiring. They added between 2009 and 2012. But the hiring spree has come with a terrible price: Last year, 138 workers were killed on the job - an increase of more than 100 percent since 2009.
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Dec 27, 2013

18 Unregulated Chemicals Found in a Third of U.S. Water Utilities Tested

Federal scientists have found 18 unregulated chemicals in drinking water provided by more than one-third of utilities in the United States.

The unpublished research, conducted by theU.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and theEnvironmental Protection Agency, revealed the presence of certain chemicals suspected of causing serious health problems.

Among the 18 chemicals were 11 perfluorinated compounds, an herbicide, two solvents, caffeine, an antibacterial compound, a metal and an antidepressant. None are currently regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act, which means utilities don't have to limit their levels or even monitor for them. A total of 21 contaminants were detected at a third of the utilities from which water was sampled.

Cost of Maintaining Nuclear stockpile is over budget by over $140 Billion!

Defense officials in the Obama administration were more than a little off when they told Congress the cost of maintaining the nation's nuclear weapons arsenal over the next 10 years.

They missed the mark by at least $140 billion.


Two years ago, the Pentagon informed lawmakers that they would need to allocate $214 billion over the coming decade to operate and upgrade the stockpile of nuclear warheads and delivery systems.

But the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) looked at the Defense Department's future plans and found that nuclear weapons-related costs were more likely to reach $355 billion by 2023. 

That's 66% higher than the 2011 estimate.

The $355 billion includes $136 billion to modernize and operate submarines, bombers and missiles that deliver warheads, $105 billion to run weapons labs, weapons and naval reactors, $56 billion for command and control systems, and $59 billion for unforeseen technical problems or mismanagement. 

And that's just the direct costs related to the nuclear arsenal.

CBO officials point out there are other, very costly programs that exist because of the nuclear weapons program, such as cleaning up shuttered nuclear fuel facilities or the nation's missile defense systems for shooting down other nation's nuclear missiles. 

These other costs will likely cost the government another $215 billion over the next decade.

"Nuclear weapons aren't cheap as some high-ranking Pentagon officials have suggested," Kingston Reif, director of nuclear non-proliferation at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, an advocacy group in Washington, told the Center for Public Integrity.

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 from Where is the Money Going? - Obama Administration Underestimated Cost of Maintaining Nuclear Weapons by $140 Billion - AllGov - News | shared via feedly mobile

Peak Trash - Americans produce around 25% more waste around the holidays than other periods.

The end of the year is peak trash season across America as the Environmental Protection Agency estimates AmericansThe end of the year is peak trash season across America as the Environmental Protection Agency estimates Americans produce around 25% more waste around the holidays than other periods. As the WSJ notes, Christmas isn't so pretty on the back end. The additional garbage—which adds up to over one million tons of waste—includes food scraps, cutlery, wine bottles, wrapping paper and Christmas trees; but Online sales add a thickening layer of refuse. In recent years, as more consumers have taken to buying online, the volume of corrugated cardboard boxes, air-filled plastic pockets and Styrofoam pellets in trash has grown. The rise is unprecedented as corrugated cardboard boxes account for as much as 50% of the paper product waste from some nearby towns, versus less than 20% a decade ago.

Via WSJ,

the holidays also produce an ever growing pile of trash, one that is getting bigger as Americans shift more of their shopping to the Web.


David Menke, a sanitation worker in Ohio, sees it firsthand driving a garbage truck and collecting trash on the outskirts of Cincinnati. "You can tell people are buying more things online, as there are already a lot of Amazon and FedEx boxes," said the 34-year-old.

Shared via feedly // published on Zero Hedge // visit site produce around 25% more waste around the holidays than other periods. As the WSJ notes, Christmas isn't so pretty on the back end. The additional garbage—which adds up to over one million tons of waste—includes food scraps, cutlery, wine bottles, wrapping paper and Christmas trees; but Online sales add a thickening layer of refuse. In recent years, as more consumers have taken to buying online, the volume of corrugated cardboard boxes, air-filled plastic pockets and Styrofoam pellets in trash has grown. The rise is unprecedented as corrugated cardboard boxes account for as much as 50% of the paper product waste from some nearby towns, versus less than 20% a decade ago.

Via WSJ,

the holidays also produce an ever growing pile of trash, one that is getting bigger as Americans shift more of their shopping to the Web.

David Menke, a sanitation worker in Ohio, sees it firsthand driving a garbage truck and collecting trash on the outskirts of Cincinnati. "You can tell people are buying more things online, as there are already a lot of Amazon and FedEx boxes," said the 34-year-old.

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#Renewable #Energy Comprised Total U.S. Power Generation Gains in November

All of the additional electricity-generating capacity added by the U.S. last month came from renewable energy sources, according to areport from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Solar, biomass, wind, geothermal, and hydropower projects provided 394 megawatts — 100 percent — of all new electricity generation that went on line in November. No new capacity was added from fossil fuels or nuclear power, FERC reported. Renewable energy sources also provided 99 percent of all new electricity-generating capacity in October. Although natural gas has been the biggest player in added capacity so far this year (52 percent), solar also made gains. It alone has made up roughly 21 percent of new power capacity so far in 2013, two-thirds more than its year-to-date total in 2012. Renewable sources now account for 15.9 percent of total U.S. generating capacity, which is more than nuclear (9.2 percent) and oil (4.05 percent) combined.
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Volume of E-Waste Projected to Soar by 2017

The volume of electronic waste generated worldwide is expected toclimb by 33 percent by 2017 to 65 million tons, according to a study conducted by a partnership of United Nations organizations, industry, governments, and scientists. So many computers, televisions, mobile
E-waste landfill
phones, and other devices are being tossed away annually that within four years the volume of e-waste would fill a 15,000-mile line of 40-ton trucks, the report said. The report, released by a group calledStEP ( Solving the E-Waste Problem Initiative) said that in 2012, 50 million tons of e-waste was generated worldwide, about 15 pounds for every person on the planet. China generated the most electronic waste last year, with 11.1 million tons, followed by the U.S. with 10 million tons. But in per capita generation, the U.S. dwarfed China and most other countries, with each American producing 65 pounds of e-waste, the study said. "The explosion is happening because there is so much technical innovation," said Ruediger Kuehr, executive secretary of StEP.
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Russian Oil Giant Becomes First in World to Pump Oil From Arctic

The Russian national oil company Gazprom has begun drilling for oil at a highly contested site in the Arctic. The oil field, an offshore site in the Russian Arctic known as Prirazlomnoye, drew international attention in September when a contingent of Greenpeace members boarded the platform in protest and were jailed in Russia for two months before being granted amnesty last week. The project, which is several years behind schedule, is the first in Russian history aimed at "developing the resources of the Arctic shelf," Gazprom said. Environmental groups say that no company has the technology or resources to deal with a massive oil spill in the harsh conditions of the Arctic Ocean. The oil giant Shell had planned exploratory drilling in the Arctic off the coast of Alaska, but temporarily shelved those plans last year after a series of mishaps. Gazprom says it has taken all necessary precautions to deal with a spill, Mongabay reports.
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Dec 26, 2013

60% of Americans Unaware of Looming Incandescent Bulb Phase Out

Even though production of 75W and 100W incandescent lamps were phased out earlier this year, many U.S. consumers remain blissfully unaware of The Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007, an energy efficiency standard that requires an initial 30% reduction in energy use for screw-in bulbs. By 2020, the federal standard requires bulbs to use 65% less energy. According to a new survey, only 40% of Americans are aware that incandescent bulbs are being phased out. However, the federal regulations are about to impact the most popular bulbs of all — 40W and 60W lamps. As of Jan. 1, 2014, the bulbs will no longer be produced. A significant portion of those who are aware of the phase out have been hoarding the bulbs in anticipation of the ban.

Home gas ranges produce toxic gases, Lawrence Berkeley Lab study

Air pollution isn't just an outdoor problem. Unhealthy fumes may be emitted inside your own home if you're cooking over an unvented gas stove.

Almost two-thirds of California households using gas burners in the winter without venting range hoods are exposed to gases that can cause breathing problems, according to a new study by a team at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory.

"Homes are exceeding air quality standards, exposing people to toxins who shouldn't be," said scientist Brett Singer, who contributed to the study.

The Bay Area has strict rules about outdoor air pollution, with 18 "Spare the Air" alerts issued so far this season to ban the burning of wood or manufactured fire logs. There are also state ventilation rules for indoor furnaces and hot water heaters.

Stovetop's gas flame. (Bay Area News Group)

But our stoves are largely overlooked.

And while the majority of California homes have a vented range hood installed, research suggests that a minority of households use them during all cooking, according to the team.

The Berkeley researchers concluded that 62 percent of households using gas burners without venting in the winter are routinely exposed to excessive levels of nitrogen dioxide, 9 percent to carbon monoxide and 53 percent to formaldehyde, gases that can trigger respiratory problems and aggravate asthma and cardiovascular disease, especially in young children and older adults.

"If these pollution levels were outdoors, the state would be required by law to submit a plan for how to clean up the air," Singer said. "But they are inside a home."

Indoor pollution levels drop by half in the summer, when doors and windows are more likely to be open. The study, led by research scientist Jennifer Logue, is published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

The findings underscore the importance of using a range hood while cooking, they note. Although the recommended size of a hood is influenced by range size, heat output and the size of the kitchen, the best hoods move at least 300 cubic feet of air per minute and are verified by the Home Ventilating Institute.

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Dec 25, 2013

Drought and the water–energy nexus in Texas

Drought and the water–energy nexus in Texas
Source: Environmental Research Letters

Texas experienced the most extreme drought on record in 2011 with up to 100 days of triple digit temperatures resulting in record electricity demand and historically low reservoir levels. We quantified water and electricity demand and supply for each power plant during the drought relative to 2010 (baseline). Drought raised electricity demands/generation by 6%, increasing water demands/consumption for electricity by 9%. Reductions in monitored reservoir storage <50% of capacity in 2011 would suggest drought vulnerability, but data show that the power plants were flexible enough at the plant level to adapt by switching to less water-intensive technologies. Natural gas, now ~50% of power generation in Texas, enhances drought resilience by increasing the flexibility of power plant generators, including gas combustion turbines to complement increasing wind generation and combined cycle generators with ~30% of cooling water requirements of traditional steam turbine plants. These reductions in water use are projected to continue to 2030 with increased use of natural gas and renewables. Although water use for gas production is controversial, these data show that water saved by using natural gas combined cycle plants relative to coal steam turbine plants is 25–50 times greater than the amount of water used in hydraulic fracturing to extract the gas.

Dec 24, 2013

H.R.267: Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act of 2013 #Energy

OpenCongressAmends the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 (PURPA) to increase from 5,000 to 10,000 kilowatts the size of small hydroelectric power projects which the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) may exempt from its license requirements. 
To improve hydropower, and for other purposes.

34 Wisconsin businesses honored in growing 'green masters' program

JSOnlineWhether they refer to it as building their triple bottom line or just plain going green, Wisconsin businesses are increasingly focused on sustainability.

A record 167 businesses participated this year in the "green masters" program coordinated by the Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. That's up 46% from last year.

The council honored the program's 34 top performers — green masters — at its annual conference in Dodgeville earlier this month, which was attended by more than 300.

"That shows me the interest in sustainability within the business community just continues to increase," said Tom Eggert, council executive director.

The program is designed to recognize businesses but "also to give them ideas on what else that they could be doing, and what other companies are doing in the sustainability area," said Eggert.

The "green masters" program is a recognition program that Wisconsin companies participate in by submitting information on the steps they've taken to use less energy, cut waste and take other steps to become more sustainable in their operations. Companies are evaluated in nine distinct areas, from climate change and energy to governance and workforce to community relations and supply chain.

In the green masters program, businesses matriculate through three levels based on how active they are on sustainability issues. Based on their scores, businesses are rated as either a "green apprentice," "green professional" or "green master" — an honor for the top 20%.

"It's been incredibly encouraging to see all of the amazing initiatives companies throughout the state are implementing – from LEED certification to community gardens to landfill gas-to-energy projects," said Marcus Cederström, Green Masters Program director.

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Good news from MIT Study: Only 3.1% of USA Used Electronics "e-Waste" Were Exported

The MIT Materials Systems Laboratory, EU's StEP, and the U.S. National Center for Electronics Recycling (NCER) have released a study, Quantitative Characterization of Domestic and Transboundary Flows of Used Electronics, that analyses collection and export of obsolete electronics generated in the United States. It is the fifth study to debunk a widely reported statistic that '80 percent' of used electronics are dumped abroad. Last year, the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) released studies of 279 sea containers, seized as 'e-waste' in African ports of Lagos and Accra, and found 91% of the goods were reused. According to the UN, most of the junk at Chinese and African dumps was generated in African cities (Lagos had 6.9M households with TV in 2007, World Bank). The UNEP study also bolsters African traders claims that used product purchased from nations with strong warranty laws outperform 'affordable' new product imported from Asia. Where did the 'original' widely reported statistic of 80% dumping (see /. slashdot dumping story) originate? Last May, in response to an editorial by Junkyard Planet author Adam Minter in Bloomberg, the source of dumping accusations (Basel Action Network) claimed 'never, ever' to have cited the statistic. The new studies have not slowed USA legislation aimed at banning trade of used electronics for repair, reuse and recycling overseas. This month, the Coalition for American Electronics Recycling ( announced 13 republicans and 5 democrats had signed on to support the bill 2791 to criminalize exports of non-shredded displays, cell phones, and computers  . Interpol announced a new 'Project Eden' targeting African geek importers in November 2013."
In related news, First time accepted submitter Accordion Noir writes:"Virginia tech researchers and a team from the US, Canada, and Russia have released a study indicating that the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 may have had positive environmental results in fish. Reduced mercury releases from mining in areas effected by the economic disarray in Russia led fish to have lower levels of methyl mercury than those in rivers on the Norwegian border or in Canada, where mining continued.

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Dec 23, 2013

Are we on the verge of solving #Climatechange?

Guardian UK - Have global emissions begun a 'permanent slowdown'? Are we on the verge, finally, of tackling climate change? Those are the tantalizing questions posed by the latest round of global CO2 figures released by PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agencyd the European Commission Joint Research Centre.

According to the new report, after a decade of growing at a hair-raising 2.9% per year, the growth rate in CO2 from fossil fuels and industrial processes has dropped to 1.4%, or just 1.1% once the leap year is taken into account. And the slowdown happened without any real deceleration in the world economy, the report says, signalling "a 'decoupling' of the increase in CO2 emissions from global economic growth."

These findings have rightly generated plenty of interest. After all, we've been badly in need of some good news about global emissions. Total human CO2 emissions from all key sources have been increasing at basically the same rate since the 1850s, suggesting that so far efforts focused on renewable power, energy efficiency and carbon policy have done nothing to reduce our impact on the climate at the global level. Any genuine slowdown is therefore hugely significant – and if it can be done without the global economy feeling a squeeze, then all the better.

But is the data correct? And if so, is this really the start of the end of fossil fuels – the essential first step to global emissions actually falling – or just a blip? 

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