Apr 30, 2014

The Evolution of Earth Day. A billion people strong

ENN Each year April 22nd, marks the anniversary of what many consider the birth of the environmental movement in 1970. Not only did this movement help pass landmark legislation like the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and Endangered Species Act but it has also engaged more than 1 billion people who now participate in Earth Day activities each year.

The first Earth Day, was essentially a grassroots protest, called for by Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson who announced a national day of environmental protest when Congress did not seem interested in joining his fight to clean up the environment. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, rallies were held in major US cities where speakers tried to raise awareness about environmental issues and transform public attitudes. Since then, environmentalism has moved from a fringe issue to a mainstream concern. 
Please continue reading from ENN Original news: The Evolution of Earth Day | shared via feedly mobile

New Zero-Day Flash Bug Affects Windows, OS X, and Linux Computers

Researchers at the Kaspersky Lab have uncovered a zero-day Adobe Flash vulnerability that affects Windows, OS X, and Linux. 'While the exploit Kaspersky observed attacked only computers running Microsoft Windows, the underlying flaw, which is formally categorized as CVE-2014-1776 and resides in a Flash component known as the Pixel Bender, is present in the Adobe application built for OS X and Linux machines as well.' Adobe has reportedly patched the bug for all platforms. Researchers first detected the bug from attacks performed on seven Syrian computers. The attacks seem to have been hosted on the Syrian Ministry of Justice website, which has led to speculation that these are state-sponsored vulnerability exploits. This speculation is further supported by evidence that one of the exploits was 'designed to target computers that have the Cisco Systems MeetingPlace Express Add-In version 5x0 installed. The app is used to view documents and images during Web conferences.'

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Decommissioning Nuclear Plants Costing Billion$ More Than Expected

This article takes a look at cost estimates of nuclear power plant decommissioning from the 1980s, and how widely inaccurate they turned out to be. This is a pretty fascinating look at past articles in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists that consistently downplayed the costs of decommissioning, for example: 'The Yankee Nuclear Power Station in Rowe, Massachusetts, took 15 years to decommission—or five times longer than was needed to build it. And decommissioning the plant—constructed early in the 1960s for $39 million—cost $608 million. The plant's spent fuel rods are still stored in a facility on-site, because there is no permanent disposal repository to put them in. To monitor them and make sure the material does not fall into the hands of terrorists or spill into the nearby river costs $8 million per year.'
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Can you build an economy on foodies and sick people?

Economy in Crisis - A data graphic released by PBS shows the vast majority of the jobs in our country are now service industry jobs. This includes healthcare, retail, leisure along with hospitality, finance, wholesale and many other industries.

The most telling portion of this graphic is the manufacturing section, which shows us that our manufacturing sector is now collectively smaller than the number of jobs we have in government.

Since the recession started in December 2007:
  • there are still 1.3 million fewer U.S. jobs than when the recession began. 
  • health care has added 1.5 million jobs. 
  • restaurants and bars have added roughly 700,000 jobs.
  •  the number of construction jobs has fallen by 1.6 million. 
  • the number of manufacturing jobs has fallen by 1.7 million.
  •  the number of government jobs has fallen by about 500,000.
Please continue reading on Economy in Crisis

Supreme Court strengthens EPA's role in fighting air pollution

Shared via feedly // published on Think Progress - The Supreme Court issued a strong 6-2 ruling that upheld how the Environmental Protection Agency decided to regulate air pollution that crosses state boundaries under the Clean Air Act. This decision has major consequences for millions across the country who suffer from breathing air pollution. "Today's ruling means that the big polluters' days of dumping pollution on our citizens without consequence are over," said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).

Apr 29, 2014

The $2.4 million settlement will get Republic's attention, but the involvement in SVEP will get their attention even more.

Ohio-based Republic Steel will pay $2.4 million under an agreement to settle alleged health and safety violations at four plants, including one in Blasdell, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration said Monday.OSHA said the settlement... “By agreeing to the terms of this settlement, Republic Steel has demonstrated a commitment to change its culture, invest in its employees, and work with OSHA and the United Steelworkers to make significant changes at its facilities that will improve the safety and health of its workers,” Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez said in a statement. “The Labor Department looks forward to working with Republic Steel to ensure that it lives up to its commitment to improve workplace safety.”

OSHA said it launched the inspections last fall after an employee at Republic’s Lorain, Ohio, plant fell through the roof of a building and was seriously injured. The agency said that it expanded its inspections to all Republic Steel’s facilities under its Severe Violator Enforcement Program.

Link from John Surma - Special Counsel at Adams and Reese LLP

Moving Duke toxic coal ash ponds would take 30 years, cost $7 to $10 billion

A top Duke Energy executive told lawmakers last week that moving coal-ash ponds away from drinking-water supplies would cost $7 to $10 billion and would take 30 years, John Murawski reports for the Raleigh News & Observer. The company and its stockholders said they will pay the cost to clean up the 39,000 tons of coal-ash sludge that leaked into the Dan River from a Feb. 2 spill but say customers should foot the bill to move the 14 locations, as critics have demanded. (McClatchy Tribune graphic)

A state regulator estimated that customers could expect to see their bills increase by more than $20 a month. Duke officials have countered with a cheaper option that would cost $2 billion to $2.5 billion and leave the coal ash in place at most sites. Under that option, "the coal ash would be air-dried, left in place and covered with a tarpaulin or membrane," Murwaski writes.

Chris Ayers, executive director of Public Staff, the state agency that represents the public in utility-rate cases, "noted that a North Carolina utility's environmental compliance costs are typically included in customers' rates. He said it was too early to tell if the Public Staff would challenge Duke's proposed costs, which the company would have to demonstrate are prudent and reasonable," Murawski writes. "Ayers told lawmakers that Duke could not be held to an environmental standard that did not exist when the pits were constructed a half-century ago."

"Under state law, Duke's coal ash remediation plan will require approval from the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources," Murawski writes. "But the cost of that plan is in the hands of the N.C. Utilities Commission, which would review Duke's expenses after the company spent the money." (Read more)

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What Hasn’t Changed Since The Bangladesh Factory Collapse

Shared via feedly //  When I met Rajina Aktar in February of last year, her eyes were still red and her memory still fuzzy from the toxic smoke that had knocked her unconscious three weeks earlier. The 15-year-old had been sewing pockets onto winter jackets when a fire broke out at Smart Export Garments, an illegal factory on the outskirts of Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. Walking through the ruins, I saw what appeared to be handprints and scratch marks on the walls of the stairwell where eight workers were crushed to death as 350 people tried to push through a single locked exit. Someone had managed to carry Aktar to safety. In the dank basement room where she lived, she told me that with four relatives to support and no education, she expected to return to the assembly line as soon as she recovered. "There is nothing else," she said. Fires in the factories of Bangladesh's $20 billion garment export industry were occurring an average of two to three times a week then.
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Apr 28, 2014

Workers Memorial Day - Making the Choice to Protect Workers, Today and Every Day

 April 28 is a day when we at OSHA and the Department of Labor reaffirm that no job is a good job unless it’s a safe job. Workers Memorial Day is a time to remember workers who have been killed, hurt, or made sick by their jobs. Today, in their honor and on behalf of their families, we renew our commitment to the safety and health of every worker.

Before the Occupational Safety and Health Act was passed in 1970, an estimated 14,000 workers were fatally injured on the job every year. Many more died from diseases caused by exposure to benzenesilicaasbestos and other serious health hazards. Today workplaces are much safer and healthier. But there is still much work to be done.

Unfortunately, the workplace hazards that you usually hear about are the ones you can see — trenches and grain silos, fall hazards and forklifts, electrical wiring and machines with moving parts. But many of the most serious hazards are the “silent killers” – the ones we can’t see, such as airborne chemicals and fine particles of dust.

American workers use tens of thousands of chemicals every day. While many of these chemicals are known or suspected of being harmful, we have workplace exposure standards for only a small fraction. Workers pay the price for lack of regulation – workplace chemical exposures that have already occurred are responsible for tens of thousands of worker deaths every year.

Some of these silent killers, like silica dust and asbestos, work slowly over years of continuous exposure. Other chemicals, like lead and formaldehyde, can have serious effects after relatively short exposures. Whether slow or fast, these tragedies can and must be prevented.
OSHA is very concerned about chemical exposures in the workplace. The American people rightly expect OSHA to have standards that protect workers from preventable death and illness. But there are countless chemicals and chemical mixtures for which we have no permissible exposure limits (PELS). And with few exceptions, the current OSHA PELS have not been updated since they were adopted in 1971, while scientific data clearly indicate that many of these exposure limits do not protect all workers from harm. This is why we have proposed a new standard to protect workers from exposure to crystalline silica dust.

Happy Workers' Memorial Day! The workplace "the forgotten environment" of 53,445 deaths

FROM CDC - Workers' Memorial Day, observed on April 28, 2014, recognizes workers who died or suffered from exposures to hazards at work. In 2012, a total of 4,383 U.S. workers died from work-related injuries (1). Most fatalities from work-related illness are not captured by national surveillance systems, but an estimate for 2007 was 53,445 deaths (2).

In 2012, nearly 3 million injuries to and illnesses in private industry workers and 793,000 to and in state and local government workers were reported by employers (3). In the same year, an estimated 2.8 million work-related injuries were treated in emergency departments, resulting in 140,000 hospitalizations (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, CDC, unpublished data, 2014). Several national surveillance systems report new cases of nonfatal work-related injuries and illnesses, although no system captures all cases. Based on methods that focus on medical costs and productivity losses, the societal cost of work-related fatalities, injuries, and illnesses was estimated at $250 billion in 2007 (2). Methods that include consideration of pain and suffering would result in a higher estimated societal cost (4). CDC is working to better describe the burden of fatalities, injuries, and illnesses suffered by workers; additional information is available at http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/programs/econ/risks.html.


  1. Bureau of Labor Statistics. National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries in 2012 preliminary results: Table 2. Washington, DC: US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics; 2013. Available at http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/cfoi.pdf Adobe PDF fileExternal Web Site Icon.
  2. Leigh JP. Economic burden of occupational injury and illness in the United States. Millbank Q 2011;89:728–72.
  3. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employer-reported workplace injuries and illnesses in 2012. Table 2. Washington, DC: US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics; 2013. Available at http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/osh.pdf Adobe PDF fileExternal Web Site Icon.
  4. Haddix AC, Teutsch SM, Corso PS, eds. Prevention effectiveness: a guide to decision analysis and economic evaluation. New York, NY: Oxford University Press; 2003:74.

Apr 27, 2014

Finally, A Way To Harvest Hydroelectric Energy From Toilet Flushes

Shared via feedly // The average American flushes 24 gallons of water down the toilet daily, while—don't get me wrong, toilets; we appreciate all of your hard work—maybe some of the energy used in a flush could be put to an additional use.

Here's one way: harvest some of the energy from the water and use it for power. A team of researchers in South Korea have created a transducer that translates water motion—from toilets, raindrops, or other water-based uses—into electricity. The technical side is wonky, but essentially, by using the motion from a tiny droplet of water—30 microliters—the team was able to power a small green LED. It's a proof-of-concept demonstration, but scale up to a flushing toilet or a rainstorm, and you can see the appeal. 

Please continue reading published on Popular Science // visit site

Build Your Own 650 watt Wind Turbine for about $30 in material costs.

Shared via feedly //  Daniel Connell, the creator of the SolarFlower has released another very useful DIY tutorial. This one is for building a wind turbine from scratch for only about $30 in material costs. The solution he proposes is a vertical axis wind turbine based on the Lenz2 lift+drag design.

The design Daniel came up with includes using aluminum lithographic offset printing plates to catch the wind, which can be gotten very cheaply, and perhaps even for free from offset printing companies, along with a number of other scrap materials, such as a bicycle wheel. Daniel has made plans to build either a three or a six vane version of the turbine. The three vane version can sustain winds up to 80 km/h, while the six vane one can sustain winds of up to 105 km/h.

Most of the materials for building the wind turbine can be repurposed, while the three vane version of the turbine can be easily built by one person in about 6 hours. One of the key components of an energy harvesting wind turbine is an alternator to the rotor. Daniel's plans call for using a 50% efficient car alternator, as the most accessible and affordable option, which would be able to produce 158 watts of electricity in a 50 km/h winds, and 649 watts at 80 km/h winds.

Please continue reading on Jetson Green // visit site

CNN: The Antibiotics that Could Kill You, use over depleting the pool of our friendly bacteria

CNNIn 2010, Americans were prescribed 258 million courses of antibiotics, a rate of 833 per thousand people. Such massive usage, billions of doses, has been going on year after year.

We have few clues about the consequences of our cumulative exposures. We do know that widespread antibiotic treatments make us more susceptible to invaders by selecting for resistant bacteria.

These risks are now well-known, but I want to lay out a new concern: that antibiotic use over the years has been depleting the pool of our friendly bacteria — in each of us — and this is lowering our resistance to infections. In today's hyperconnected globe, that means that we are at high risk of future plagues that could spread without natural boundaries from person to person and that we could not stop. I call this "antibiotic winter."

To explain: In the early 1950′s, scientists conducted experiments to determine whether our resident microbes — the huge number of bacteria that live in and on our bodies, now called our "microbiome" — help in fending off invading bacteria. They fed mice a species of a typical invader, disease-causing salmonella. It took about 100,000 organisms to infect half of the normal mice.But when they first gave mice an antibiotic, which kills both good and bad bacteria, and then several days later gave them salmonella, it took only three organisms to infect them. This isn't a 10 or 20% difference; it's a 30,000-fold difference.

That was in mice, but what about humans? In 1985, Chicago faced a massive outbreak of salmonella. At least 160,000 people became ill and several died from drinking contaminated milk. The health department asked victims of the outbreak and unaffected persons, "Have you received antibiotics in the month prior to becoming ill?" People who said yes were five times more likely to become ill than those who drank the milk but hadn't recently received antibiotics.

People carry a small number of highly abundant bacterial species and a large number of much less common ones. For example, you may carry trillions of Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron in your colon and only a thousand cells, or fewer, belonging to many other species. We are not sure how many rare species any of us has. If you had only 50 cells of a particular type, it would be difficult to detect them against the background of trillions of others.

When you take a broad-spectrum antibiotic, which is the kind most commonly prescribed, it may be that rare microbes occasionally get wiped out entirely. And once the population hits zero, there is no bouncing back. For your body, that species is now extinct. My worry is that some of these critical residential organisms — what I consider "contingency" species — may disappear altogether.

Please continue reading CNN

Apr 26, 2014

Security At #Nuclear #Energy Facilities: Danger Likely Lurks From Within

Shared via feedly // Insider threats are the most serious challenge confronting nuclear facilities in today's world, a Stanford political scientist says. In every case of theft of nuclear materials where the circumstances of the theft are known, the perpetrators were either insiders or had help from insiders, according to Scott Sagan and his co-author, Matthew Bunn of Harvard University, in a research paper published this month by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. 'Given that the other cases involve bulk material stolen covertly without anyone being aware the material was missing, there is every reason to believe that they were perpetrated by insiders as well,' they wrote. And theft is not the only danger facing facility operators; sabotage is a risk as well ... While there have been sabotage attempts in the United States and elsewhere against nuclear facilities conducted by insiders, the truth may be hard to decipher in an industry shrouded in security, [Sagan] said. The most recent known example occurred in 2012 – an apparent insider sabotage of a diesel generator at the San Onofre nuclear facility in California. Arguably the most spectacular incident happened at South Africa's Koeberg nuclear power plant (then under construction) in South Africa in 1982 when someone detonated explosives directly on a nuclear reactor.

How Japan Plans To Build Orbital Solar Power Stations

Shared via feedly // Solar power stations in orbit aren't exactly a new idea — Asimov set one of his stories on such a space station back in 1941. Everyone thinks it's a cool idea to collect solar power 24 hours a day and beam it down to Earth. But what with the expense and difficulty of rocketing up the parts and constructing and operating the stations in orbit, nobody's built one yet. While you probably still shouldn't hold your breath, it's interesting to learn that Japan's space agency has spec'd out such a solar power station.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Independent Certification of @TrinaSolarUS Solar Technology with Conversion Efficiency of 24.4%

Make no mistake about it, 24.4% is a big deal—if the price is right.

Trina Solar Press ReleaseTrina Solar Limited, a global leader in photovoltaic (PV) modules, solutions and services, today announced that its State Key Laboratory of PV Science and Technology has developed a new high-efficiency Honey Ultra solar module.

Trina Solar's Honey Ultra monocrystalline silicon module reached a new record of 326.3W, which has been independently certified by TUV Rheinland, a leading authoritative certification institution. This result sets a new world record for p-type monocrystalline silicon modules. The monocrystalline silicon module is composed of 60 high-efficiency Honey Ultra monocrystalline silicon cells of 156mm x 156mm, fabricated with a technology developed by Trina Solar and currently in pilot production.

This new Honey Ultra module marks a key milestone for Trina Solar's State Key Laboratory of PV Science and Technology since its accreditation in November 2013 and follows the Company's development of a new Interdigitated Back Contact ("IBC") cell capable of delivering an industry-leading efficiency of24.4%.

This demonstrates Trina Solar's world-class monocrystalline silicon module and that the technology behind these high-efficiency modules is suitable for rapid roll-out to large-scale production.

Apr 25, 2014

Solar Roadways installs energy harvesting parking lot

Shared via feedly // Solar Roadways installs energy harvesting parking lot

Scott and Julie Brusaw relax on the new parking lot

About 8 years ago, an electrical engineer and his counselor wife started throwing around an idea to replace asphalt on highways and byways throughout the US with electricity-producing solar panels that were tough enough to be driven upon. The idea blossomed into a project, where the panels featured built-in LEDs that could "paint the road" with markings and warnings, and could be heated to prevent snow and ice build up. The US Federal Highway Administration paid for the couple to produce a working prototype, which they did, and then again to expand the concept into an operational parking lot setup. As the latter contract comes to an end, the Solar Roadways project has released photos of the (almost) completed installation at its Idaho electronics lab. Now the team is dipping into crowd-funding waters with a campaign to raise funds for the move into commercial production... Continue Reading Solar Roadways installs energy harvesting parking lot

Panel Says U.S. Not Ready For Inevitable Arctic Oil Spill, no one has any idea how any spill cleanup techniques would work in the arctic environment.

As eagerness to explore the Arctic's oil and gas resources grows, the threat of a major Arctic oil spill looms ever larger—and the United States has a lot of work to do to prepare for that inevitability, a panel convened by the National Research Council (NRC) declares in a report released yesterday. The committee, made up of members of academia and industry, recommended beefing up forecasting systems for ocean and ice conditions, infrastructure for supply chains for people and equipment to respond, field research on the behavior of oil in the Arctic environment, and other strategies to prepare for a significant spill in the harsh conditions of the Arctic.

Shortest version: no one has any idea how any spill cleanup techniques would work in the arctic environment.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Drought Now Covers 100% of California

California's drought has finished its conquest of the state: 100 percent of the land here is now in a drought condition, and 96 percent of it is in a severe, extreme, or exceptional drought.

"This week marks the first time in the 15-year history of the USDM that 100 percent of California was in moderate to exceptional drought," writes NOAA's Richard Heim in a drought monitoring report.

It's gotten this bad, despite March's decent rains.

And the state's hydrological conditions might be worse than they look here. 

Please read full and follow Alexis C. Madrigal : The Atlantic // visit site

North Dakota finds more radioactive oil waste

APNorth Dakota confirmed Thursday the discovery of a new radioactive dump of waste from oil drilling, and separately a company hired to clean up waste found in February at another location said it removed double the amount of radioactive material originally estimated to be there.

The Canadian company hired to clean up the largest dump found so far, located at an abandoned gas station in Noonan, also said that it suspects the soil at the site is contaminated and that samples were being analyzed.

The twin disclosures highlight a growing problem from North Dakota's booming oil development — illegal disposal of oil filter socks, which are tubular nets that strain liquids during the oil production process and contain low amounts of radioactive material. Health officials have said that radioactive filter socks increasingly are being found along roadsides, in abandoned buildings or in commercial trash bins — sometimes those of competing oil companies.

Apr 24, 2014

Open-source beehives developed to tackle Colony Collapse Disorder

Open-source beehives can be downloaded and printed using a CNC router (Photo: Open Source ...
Bee colonies are in decline worldwide. As Gizmag reported previously, this is a growing problem, and a number of theories and solutions are being explored. A team of eco-technologists from Europe and the US has come together to engineer a collaborative response to the problem, an open-source hive that can help house, track and understand the cycles movements of these vital members of the eco-system. .. Continue Reading Open-source beehives developed to tackle Colony Collapse Disorder

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Trinity portable wind turbine takes a breezy approach to charging-on-the-go

There are already plenty of solar-powered phone chargers out there, but they won't do you much good at night, when it's cloudy, or even if you live too far north. Chances are, however, that in any one of those situations, there will be at least a slight breeze ... and that's where the Trinity portable wind turbine comes into play. .. Continue ReadingTrinity portable wind turbine takes a breezy approach to charging-on-the-go 
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Denza all-electric vehicle production model premieres in China

The auto market in China looks set to continue expanding dramatically and this hasn't failed to catch the eyes of the big players in the car industry. At Auto China 2014 in Beijing, Shenzhen BYD Daimler New Technology Co., Ltd presented the world premiere of the production model of its Denza; the first all-electric vehicle for the Chinese market produced by the first Sino-German electric car joint venture... Continue Reading Denza all-electric vehicle production model premieres in China 

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Bee Health: Issues for Congress, agricultural production is $16 billion annually, three-fourths is attributable to honey bees.

Bee Health: Background and Issues for Congress (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Center)

Bees, both commercially managed honey bees and wild bees, play an important role in global food production. In the United States alone, the value of insect pollination to U.S. agricultural production is estimated at $16 billion annually, of which about three-fourths is attributable to honey bees. Worldwide, the contribution of bees and other insects to global crop production for human food is valued at about $190 billion. Given the importance of honey bees and other bee species to food production, many have expressed concern about whether a "pollinator crisis" has been occurring in recent decades.

Apr 23, 2014

Report - 60% of China underground water too polluted to drink

Sixty percent of underground water in China which is officially monitored is too polluted to drink directly, state media have reported, underlining the country's grave environmental problems.

Water quality measured in 203 cities across the country last year rated "very poor" or "relatively poor" in an annual survey released by the Ministry of Land and Resources, the official Xinhua news agency said late Tuesday.

Water rated "relatively" poor quality cannot be used for drinking without prior treatment, while water of "very" poor quality cannot be used as a source of drinking water, the report said.

The proportion of water not suitable for direct drinking rose from 57.4 percent from 2012, it said.

China's decades-long economic boom has brought rising environmental problems, with large parts of the country repeatedly blanketed in thick smog and both waterways and land polluted.

Apr 22, 2014

They all forget yesterday was and tomorrow is #Earthday, 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 

Dead in the noise of "green wash marketing" media blitz across our great nation...  They all forget yesterday was and tomorrow is Earthday... 

Being with family and enjoying the outdoors are the most basic ways to know in your heart and mind that protecting "people and planet" need to be in our actions everyday. I wonder if the millions of dollars spent on commercial advertising this week, promoting that nearly every channel as "green" buy "green stuff" or watch their "green shows", will be donated to environmental protection?

Apr 21, 2014

Ethanol is bad for the environment overall and is increasing the cost of food for 500 million poor people

James Conca at Forbes reports that the International Institute for Sustainable Development estimates that the CO2 and climate benefits from replacing petroleum fuels with biofuels like ethanol are basically zero (IISD). They claim that it would be almost 100 times more effective, and much less costly, to significantly reduce vehicle emissions through more stringent standards, and to increase CAFE standards on all cars and light trucks to over 40 miles per gallon as was done in Japan just a few years ago.

In 2000, over 90% of the U.S. corn crop went to feed people and livestock, many in undeveloped countries, with less than 5% used to produce ethanol. In 2013, however, 40% went to produce ethanol, 45% was used to feed livestock, and only 15% was used for food and beverage
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Apr 20, 2014

Male farmers are four times more likely to attempt suicide than men in other professions,

Rural BlogMale farmers are four times more likely to attempt suicide than men in other professions, Max Kutner reports for Newsweek  magazine, which recently revived its print edition. "For decades, farmers across the country have been dying by suicide at higher rates than the general population. The exact numbers are hard to determine, mainly because suicides by farmers are under-reported (they may get mislabeled as hunting or tractor accidents, advocates for prevention say) and because the exact definition of a farmer is elusive."

The alarming trend can be tracked back three decades, Kutner writes. "The 1980s brought two droughts, a national economy in trouble and a government ban on grain exports to the Soviet Union. Farmers started defaulting on their loans, and by 1985, 250 farms closed every hour. That economic undertow sucked down farms and the people who put their lives into them. . . . Since that crisis, the suicide rate for male farmers has remained high: just under two times that of the general population."

The problem is a global one. Since 1995 more than 270,000 farmers in India have committed suicide, and the suicide rate among French farmers is one every two days, Kutner writes. "In China, farmers are killing themselves to protest the government's seizing of their land for urbanization. In Ireland, the number of suicides jumped following an unusually wet winter in 2012 that resulted in trouble growing hay for animal feed. In the U.K., the farmer suicide rate went up by 10 times during the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in 2001, when the government required farmers to slaughter their animals. And in Australia, the rate is at an all-time high following two years of drought." 

Please continue reading at Rural Blog

Powered by pee: New filtration system converts urine into water and electricity

Salon.comThe average person urinates seven times per day, and it is hard not to think of the bodily fluid as waste. But to scientists at NASA and the University of Puerto Rico, one person's pee could be that same person's refreshing glass of water — and power supply. A newly developed filtration system has the capability of turning urine into water and create electricity with the waste material. The results were published last month in the journal Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering.
The International Space Station has been using a similar urine converting system since 2008. 

Apr 19, 2014

China claims only one-fifth of farmland is polluted or is it 40-70% of total land?

QuartzAlmost one-fifth of China's farmland is polluted, according to a government report released this week. Officials have acknowledged the country's problems with water and air pollution, but the extent of soil contamination has been a closely guarded "state secret," for fear of incriminating certain provinces or companies.
About 19.4% of China's farmland is polluted by cadmium, nickel and arsenic, according to the seven-year study that analyzed a little over half of China's entire land area. One-fifth of China's total arable land is about 26 million hectares (64 million acres), the same area as the United Kingdom, by the most recent estimates.
The pollution is concentrated around the Yangtze and Pearl River Deltas—key sources of water in the country and home to millions of people—as well as in parts of the south where much of China's rice is grown. Last year, half of all samples of rice in Guangzhou were found to have poisonous levels of cadmium, a chemical that can cause kidney failure when ingested. The main causes are agriculture and industry, the report said. (Farmers contribute to soil pollution with their use of fertilizers and pesticides and improper disposal of animal waste.)
Why officials chose to release the results isn't clear. Authorities have recently admitted environmental mistakes, like the existence of villages near industrial plants where cancer rates have soared, which they had long denied. Still, the soil study results may be optimistic. In December, an official said 3 million hectares of Chinese farmland are now too polluted to even grow crops on. Other estimates of China's soil pollution are as much as 40-70% of total land, as we've noted before.

Madison #Wisconsin nations greenest city. Do You Live in One of the 25 Greenest Cities?

EcoWatchWhen it comes to the ranking's metrics, which include the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency'sair quality index and a formula for excess fuel consumed per commuter by Texas A&M University's Transportation Institute, there's simply no room for any cities within the nation's most populated state.

However, the country's other regions receive equal representation in the ranking that also considers the amount of parks per 10,000 residents, as well as the percentage of the population that walks, bikes, carpools, takes public transit to work or works from home.

Graphic credit: NerdWallet
Graphic credit: NerdWallet

Here's what the site had to say about its top selection, Madison, WI:

"Madison earns the distinction of being the greenest city in the U.S., partly due to the fact that the city is literally "green"—its 12.7 parks per 10,000 residents is the highest mark of all cities in the country. The Madison area is home to over 15,000 acres of lakes and more than 200 miles of biking and hiking trails. In fact, the city boasts more bikes than cars, which no doubt contributes to the area's great air quality."

Apr 18, 2014

The Lorax: Al Gore for trees #Funny

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Apr 17, 2014

New MIT floating nuclear plant would be safer and lower cost #energy

A new design for nuclear plants built on floating platforms, modeled after those used for offshore oil drilling, could help avoid problems from Tsunamis and earthquakes. Such floating plants would be designed to be automatically cooled by the surrounding seawater in a worst-case scenario, which would indefinitely prevent any melting of fuel rods, or escape of radioactive material.

Plants could be built in a shipyard, then towed to their destinations five to seven miles offshore, where they would be moored to the seafloor and connected to land by an underwater electric transmission line. The concept takes advantage of two mature technologies: light-water nuclear reactors and offshore oil and gas drilling platforms. Using established designs minimizes technological risks, says Buongiorno, an associate professor of nuclear science and engineering (NSE) at MIT.

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Apr 16, 2014

Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Approves Chemical Safety and Drinking Water Protection Act

On April 3, ACA attended the mark-up of the Chemical Safety and Drinking Water Protection Act, or S. 1961. This bill was introduced by Senators Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.). The bill passed out of committee by a voice vote. Members of the committee on both sides of the aisle expressed how this bill is a product of many hours of bipartisan negotiations.

The Chemical Safety and Drinking Water Protection Act was introduced in response to the Jan. 9, 2014, chemical spill from Freedom Industries, Inc. in Charleston, W. Va. About 7,500 gallons of a chemical called 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol (MCHM) leaked into the Elk River in Charleston, causing over 300,000 West Virginia residents to go without access to clean water for weeks. The spill not only negatively impacted residents — businesses and tourism in West Virginia also suffered from the spill.

The bill requires states to establish chemical storage facility source water protection programs to provide for the protection of public water systems from a release of a chemical from chemical facilities. The bills set out minimum requirements for these state programs as well as information sharing, notification, inspection, and cost recovery provisions. The bill also requires covered chemical storage facilities under these plans to be inspected every three years and any other covered storage facilities every five years. ACA met with Congressional staff to share its recommendations to make the bills narrower in scope and less burdensome on chemical facilities, and to utilize existing regulatory programs to the furthest extent possible.

Since the bill’s introduction, the legislation has gone through a number of revisions in response to many affected industries voicing their concerns about the broad scope of the bill. Chairwoman Boxer revised the introduced bill through a Manager’s Amendment during markup, so the amended bill now includes several key changes:
  • Includes a definition of a chemical
  • Establishes criteria for exclusions for which a state may apply
  • Narrows the scope of the bill to aboveground storage tanks rather than chemical storage facilities
  • Adds annual inspections for “high hazard” tanks
  • Allows pre-transfer inspections to be performed by third parties
  • Encourages states to incorporate existing standards into state programs
  • Requires EPA to issue guidance to states on implementation of state programs, and issue public notice and opportunity for comment on this guidance
Representative Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia has also introduced a bill in the House that is substantially similar to Senator Manchin’s bill to implement aboveground storage tank regulation programs in the states. Her bill remains in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Additionally, just days before the markup, West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin signed into law a bill to implement an aboveground storage tank regulation program in the state. This bill requires annual inspections of aboveground storage tanks and establishes registration, inventory, permitting, proof of financial responsibility, notification, information sharing, signage, and inspection requirements. The bill does exclude certain categories of aboveground storage tanks from some of these new requirements, sets up a “Protect Our Water Fund” to ensure adequate response to leaking aboveground storage tanks, and includes civil penalties for violations.

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House Homeland Security (DHS) Subcommittee Supports CFATS Extension Bill

The House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection and Security Technologies on April 3 passed by voice vote a bill that would eauthorize the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program for an additional three years.

The full House Homeland Security Committee is expected to consider the legislation in late April or early May.

On Feb. 5, Rep. Mike McCaul (R-TX), Chairman of the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee and Rep. Pat Meehan, Chairman of the U.S. House Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, IP and Security Technologies, introduced H.R. 4007, the CFATS Authorization and Accountability Act of 2014: a multi-year reauthorization of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program, with important policy fixes.

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Apr 14, 2014

#Wisconsin #Chemical Coaters Chapter Scholarship Opportunity

Wisconsin Chemical Coaters Association Int'l:
The Wisconsin annual Golf Outing is coming up on July 11, 2014. This event is a fund raiser for the CCAI Wisconsin chapter scholarship fund. With this money we hand out scholarships to individuals that are not only going to school for Coatings and Finishing, but also in Environmental, Business, Engineering among others. We are currently accepting applications for the scholarships. 

This is open to not only high school students but students currently in college, and people in the industry that are going back to school to advance their education. People that are eligible for a scholarship:

  • Current CCAI Members
  • Family members or dependents of current Wisconsin CCAI Members
  • Employees of Companies that are current Wisconsin CCAI Corporate Members
Applications are to be turned in by May 1, 2014. The scholarship committee will review the applications and notify the winners by June 1, 2014. Recipients will be awarded the scholarships at the Golf Outing.

This year the Wisconsin CCAI will be awarding three named scholarships:
  • 1 for James F. Wright
  • 1 for David J. Wright
  • 1 for James Steffes
These scholarships are for $750.00 to $1,000.00 each. 

We will also be awarding several additional scholarships from the CCAI Wisconsin Chapter for up to $1,000.00 each.

Please email ccai@goyermgt (dot) com or WISCCAI@yahoo (dot) com for current application and instructions. 

Thank you for taking the time to fill out the application. This is very important to the CCAI. We are about teaching and helping people learn more in the industry.

Post #Fukushima #Japan Chooses Coal Over #Renewable #Energy - #EpicFail

BloombergPrime Minister Shinzo Abe is pushing Japan's coal industry to expand sales at home and abroad, undermining hopes among environmentalists that he'd use the Fukushima nuclear accident to switch the nation to renewables.

A new energy plan approved by Japan's cabinet on April 11 designates coal an important long-term electricity source while falling short of setting specific targets for cleaner energy from wind, solar and geothermal. The policy also gives nuclear power the same prominence as coal in Japan's energy strategy.

In many ways, utilities are already ahead of policy makers. With nuclear reactors idled for safety checks, Japan's 10 power companies consumed 5.66 million metric tons of coal in January, a record for the month and 12 percent more than a year ago, according to industry figures.

"You cannot exclude coal when you think about the best energy mix for Japan to keep energy costs stable," said Naoya Domoto, president of energy and plant operations at IHI Corp., a developer of a technology known as A-USC that burns coal to produce a higher temperature steam. "One way to do that is to use coal efficiently."

Regulators suspect feed ingredient, made from the blood, as a cause in deaths of millions of pigs, but lack concrete proof

Trying to find why a disease has killed millions of young pigs in 27 states, scientists and regulators are examining a wide variety of possible causes, including porcine plasma, "a widely used feed ingredient made from the blood of slaughtered hogs and fed to piglets," Jesse Newman reports for The Wall Street Journal. The virus, porcine epidemic diarrhea, is thought to have killed four million pigs, but actual numbers could be higher because deaths are reported voluntarily. (WSJ graphic)
"The number of new confirmed cases of the virus has accelerated recently, confounding farmers and veterinarians, who have ramped up their already stringent 'biosecurity' measures since last spring," Newman writes. "Those precautions include more aggressively disinfecting trucks and workers' boots and clothing when they enter and leave farms and barns."

The Food and Drug Administration, the Department of Agriculture and pork-industry officials "are examining a range of feed ingredients and manufacturing processes as well as other possible pathways for the virus, like contaminated air or dust particles carried from farm to farm," Newman writes. "Though the evidence is inconclusive, some researchers say that porcine plasma could be spreading the virus from adult pigs that show few symptoms, or that some plasma may have been contaminated in transit."

While come cases of PED are being linked to plasma, it's still not clear if feed is the cause of the illness, Newman writes. Greg Stevenson, a veterinary pathologist at Iowa State University who has studied the virus, told Newman, "Many people think that feed is the most likely suspect. But practically speaking, we have no proof." (Read more)

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"Leading enviro journo @Kenwardjr tells how he does it, advises would-be followers to work for newspapers

Ken Ward Jr. of The Charleston Gazette, whose work on the West Virginia chemical spill again proved his rank among America's top reporters, has some advice for journalists and would-be environmental and labor reporters in an interview with Beth Daley of the New England Center for Investigative Reporting in the latest edition of SEJournal, the magazine of the Society of Environmental Journalists.

"It's always critical not to take the government's word for anything," Ward says, quoting muckraker I.F. Stone: "All governments lie." In covering the spill that fouled the water of 300,000 people, "It was especially important to have outside sources and independent experts," he says, including fellow SEJ members who knew experts he didn't.

Asked how he "cuts through emotion and rhetoric" on his Coal Tattoo blog, Ward says he's not sure he does, "and I would say there's absolutely nothing wrong with people being emotional about issues that affect both their health and safety and their ability to provide for their families. Journalists or government officials or industry lobbyists who pretend emotion has no place in these discussions are sending us down the wrong path in covering environmental stories."

Finally, asked for advice yo young journalists who want to cover environmental news, Ward warmed out hearts by saying, "Find a small, community-based and locally owned newspaper in your home state and work there. [He did that.] Avoid Washington and New York. Smaller communities need good journalism, and the stories you find will be much richer – so will your life. Think especially about reporting in and on the place you came from – a sense of place is all too rare in journalism these days. And try to stick around a while, so you can include a sense of history and context in your reporting." (Read more)
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The Troubling Truth Behind the Ebola Outbreak | 90 people have died

In the Guardian's article, "Panic as deadly Ebola virus spreads across West Africa," it reports:

Since the outbreak of the deadly strain of Zaire Ebola in Guinea in February, around 90 people have died as the disease has travelled to neighbouring Sierra Leone, Liberia and Mali. The outbreak has sent shock waves through communities who know little of the disease or how it is transmitted. The cases in Mali have added to fears that it is spreading through West Africa.