Sep 30, 2014

The U.S. Army in Asia, 2030-2040, U.S. relationship with China will be the fulcrum

The U.S. Army in Asia, 2030-2040
Source: RAND Corporation

For the next 20 or more years, the U.S. relationship with China will be the fulcrum on which the East Asian security order balances. As a result, U.S. policy should seek to prevent the emergence of an overtly hostile U.S.-China relationship while hedging against the possibility that one could nonetheless emerge. Such a strategy must balance between protecting U.S. interests in East Asia, where clashes with China's preferences are most likely, and cooperating with Beijing globally where the two sides have common objectives. Crafting and sustaining such a strategy will be a major challenge. It must have clear and realistic goals flowing from larger U.S. interests and strategy in the region, take into account the need for U.S.-China cooperation on a host of global security and economic matters, be flexible and responsive to Chinese moves, seek to channel Chinese conduct in favorable directions, and reflect the new realities of Asia resulting from China's increased military and economic power. The U.S. Army will have an important role to play in supporting U.S. strategy in the Asia-Pacific, primarily by providing training and support to allies and partners; helping to defend key facilities from enemy ground, air, and missile attack; providing key enabling support to the joint force; projecting expeditionary combat forces into the theater; contributing to new conventional deterrent options; and helping to encourage China's participation in cooperative military-to-military engagements.


World’s First Carbon Neutral Poo Power Plant

World's First Carbon Neutral Poo Power Plant: Officials in the California community of Victor Valley on Friday unveiled the United States' first carbon-neutral wastewater treatment plant. Biogas produced from food waste and sewage powers the plant while keeping tons of garbage out of landfills. Officials at the Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority expect the system to operate independent of the power grid by 2015, diverting more than 1,400 tons of waste from the trash heap. "Why would we not want to recover the inherent energy in our waste to power this facility so that we're out of that Edison cycle of 'Well, here's your rate increase, here's your rate increase' every year?" Logan Olds, general manager of the high desert city, told the Daily Press. 

California crop harvest plunges #drought

Sacramento Bee 

Although harvest of many crops isn't complete, production is sure to fall.

Rice: Growers planted 140,000 fewer acres than last year, a drop of 25 percent.

Almonds: Crop estimated at 1.9 billion pounds, down from 2 billion last year.

Corn: Production down by an estimated 45 percent.

Cotton: Acres planted shrank by 23 percent.

Oranges: Crop expected to decline 4 percent.

Grapes: Production expected to fall as much as 9 percent.

Wheat: Expected to fall 40 percent. 

Sep 29, 2014

From poop to power in California

Take Part - Officials in the California community of Victor Valley on Friday unveiled the United States' first carbon-neutral waste water treatment plant. Biogas produced from food waste and sewage powers the plant while keeping tons of garbage out of landfills.

Officials at the Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority expect the system to operate independent of the power grid by 2015, diverting more than 1,400 tons of waste from the trash heap.

"Why would we not want to recover the inherent energy in our waste to power this facility so that we're out of that Edison cycle of 'Well, here's your rate increase, here's your rate increase' every year?" Logan Olds, general manager of the high desert city, told the Daily Press. "It's a demonstration project and has not been done anywhere else. There are currently no other installations of this technology in the U.S." 

Called the Omnivore Biogas Renewable Energy Project, the system uses co-digestion technology provided by Ontario, Canada–based energy group Anaergia, which was able to retrofit three older digesters already on the plant.

The new system mixes high solids (such as solid food) with sludge (sewage) and uses anaerobic digestion technology to convert the waste into biogas. That biogas, which used to be burned and released into the atmosphere, is harnessed and turned into low-carbon fuel. 

Integrated Molten Salt Reactor should demonstrate the lowest lifetime cost of energy any known technology

Canada's Terrestrial Energy Corporation is a leader in molten salt reactors. Nextbigfuture believes they have a good chance at creating an energy revolution because of their low cost and low development risk design. Their main advantage is the Canadian oilsands. Hundreds of IMSR reactor can be used to generate steam for oil recovery.

Low cost and accessible energy supply is linked to living standards and quality of life. Higher standards of living make appliances and devices more affordable; emerging nations are craving all the gadgets and conveniences of the developed world. Per capita electricity consumption in the most developed nations, the countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the OECD, is 4½ times greater than in the rest of the world. In Canada, our per capita electricity consumption is over double the OECD average and 9½ times the non-OECD world. There are over 5.7 billion people who want to close that gap. 

The 25 MWe version of the IMSR is the size of a fairly deep hottub

Read more » at Next Big Future

World Wide Web inventor warns of threat to Internet

AFP-  The British inventor of the World Wide Web warned  that the freedom of the internet is under threat by governments and corporations interested in controlling the web.

Tim Berners-Lee, a computer scientist who invented the web 25 years ago, called for a bill of rights that would guarantee the independence of the internet and ensure users' privacy.

"If a company can control your access to the internet, if they can control which websites they go to, then they have tremendous control over your life," Berners-Lee said at the London "Web We Want" festival on the future of the internet.

"If a Government can block you going to, for example, the opposition's political pages, then they can give you a blinkered view of reality to keep themselves in power."

"Suddenly the power to abuse the open internet has become so tempting both for government and big companies."

He called for an internet version of the "Magna Carta", the 13th century English charter credited with guaranteeing basic rights and freedoms.

... "There have been lots of times that it has been abused, so now the Magna Carta is about saying...I want a web where I'm not spied on, where there's no censorship," Berners-Lee said.

The scientist added that in order to be a "neutral medium", the internet had to reflect all of humanity, including "some ghastly stuff".

"Now some things are of course just illegal, child pornography, fraud, telling someone how to rob a bank, that's illegal before the web and it's illegal after the web," Berners-Lee added. 

Sep 28, 2014

Microwave Popcorn and 16 Cancer Causing Foods You Probably Eat Every Day...

Those little bags of popcorn are so convenient to just stick in the microwave, you wouldn't think for a minute that they could be dangerous to your health, but they are.

First, let's talk about the bag itself. Proved by Wikipedia, conventional microwave popcorn bags are lined with a chemical called perfluorooctanoic acid ( PFOA). This is a toxin you can find in Teflon also. According to a recent study at the University of California, PFOA is linked to infertility in women. Numerous studies in lab animals and humans show that exposure to PFOA significantly increases the risk of kidney, bladder, liver, pancreas and testicular cancers. You can read more about this substance and the above mentioned studies at

Now, let's talk about the contents. Although every manufacturer uses slightly different ingredients, most of them use soybean oil (a GMO product) as well as various preservatives such as propyl gallate, a chemical that is causes stomach problems and skin rashes. Now they don't actually say they are using GMO corn kernels, but that's because the government says they don't have to. Even if they don't use GMO corn, you can bet they aren't using organic corn!

Also, applied to the popcorn itself, is a chemical called diacetyl. Use of this chemical caused Conagra Foods to remove it from their brand of popcorn, ACT, because it was causing lung diseases in the workers at their factory.

Sep 27, 2014

The poverty rate for individuals not living in families highest in over 30 years.

Off the Charts Blog |     While poverty and median income improved last year for families with children,poverty rates reached record highs for childless families and individuals.  The poverty rate for individuals not living in families (people living alone or only with non-relatives) rose to 23.3 percent in 2013, the highest in over 30 years.  The poverty rate for childless families (childless couples, older couples or other families whose children have moved away or turned 18, and other relatives who live together), while much lower at 6.2 percent, was also the highest in over three decades.

    Income inequality remained historically high.  The share of the nation's income going to the bottom fifth of households remained at 3.2 percent, tied for the lowest level on record with data back to 1967.  The ratio of the median income of the top fifth of households to that of the bottom fifth topped 12 to 1 for the first time on record, with data back to 1967.

Utilities Should Worry; Rooftop Solar Could Soon Cut Their Profit

A study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory predicts that distributed rooftop solar panel installations will grow from 0.2% market penetration today to 10% by 2022, during which time they're likely to cut utility profits from 8% to 41%. Using those same metrics, electricity rates for utility customers will grow only by as much as 2.7% over the next eight years. By comparison, the cost of electricity on average rose 3.1% from 2013 to 2014. The study was performed for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy under the U.S. Department of Energy. One of the main purposes of the study was to evaluate measures that could be pursued by utilities and regulators to reduce the financial impacts of distributed photovoltaics.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Sep 26, 2014

What Really Happens to that Old Computer You’ve “Recycled?”

SustainablogAs we've seen in many cases, what happens to your old computer, or used cell phone, or other electronics you hand over to a recycler is just what you expect: it gets torn down for useful parts and components, or refurbished into a new version of the same product. But, unfortunately, there's still about a quarter of American electronic waste that gets shipped overseas, where very poor people pick through it – without any kind of safety equipment, protective clothing, and the like – for materials that they can sell in exchange for the most basic needs. The documentary film TERRA BLIGHT walks its viewers through this whole lifecycle, and counterposes US consumption of electronics with "recycling" of the remnants in places like Ghana.

While some places in the developing world are building proper facilities for disassembling electronics and removing valuable elements safely, Agbogbloshie, an e-waste dump near Accra, Ghana, is still an example of what's often found in the world's poorest places. Adults and children smash monitors and computer cases with rocks to expose wires; in doing so, they often release lead and mercury into the air. If these workers don't breathe these toxins in, they work their way into the soil, and eventually the water, of the area where the disassembly occurs. Other developed countries ban this export of these toxic materials to the developing world, but not the United States.

Please read full and follow at: What Really Happens to that Old Computer You've "Recycled?"

Sep 25, 2014

An Electric Car Powered by Saltwater with a range of up to 373 miles?

Peak EnergyI don't usually expect to see "free energy" style stories on Inhabitat but I guess they make for good clickbait - this one is on a very hot looking car that can supposedly travel 370 miles on a tank of saltwater - This Blazing Fast Electric Car is Powered by Saltwater.
Nanoflowcell has developed the world's first saltwater-powered electric car – the Quant e-Sportlimousine – it just received approval for testing in Europe! The futuristic gull-winged vehicle runs on a special type of gasoline that is made from salt water, and it's now street-legal on public roads in Germany. According to Nanoflowcell, the Quant e-Sportlimousine can accelerate from 0-62 mph in a blazing 2.8 seconds and it has a driving range of up to 373 miles.

Sep 24, 2014

Ebola... it's not all about the organism

The most salient mistake made by the contemporary infectious disease (ID) professional community in recent decades is overemphasis on organisms verses understanding and addressing other factors in disease transmission.

Here is a brief excerpt from The New England Journal of Medicine article published yesterday -NEJM Sept 2014
We estimate that, at the current rate of increase, assuming no changes in control efforts, the cumulative number of confirmed and probable cases by November 2 (the end of week 44 of the epidemic) will be 5740 in Guinea, 9890 in Liberia, and 5000 in Sierra Leone, exceeding 20,000 cases in total (Figure 4 and Table S8 in Supplementary Appendix 2). The true case load, including suspected cases and undetected cases, will be higher still.

Although the current epidemic of EVD in West Africa is unprecedented in scale, the clinical course of infection and the transmissibility of the virus are similar to those in previous EVD outbreaks. The incubation period, duration of illness, case fatality rate, and R0 are all within the ranges reported for previous EVD epidemics.7,13-18 Our estimates of R0 are similar to other recent estimates for this West Africa epidemic.19-23 The combination of signs and symptoms recorded between symptom onset and clinical presentation is also similar to that in other reports

"We infer that the present epidemic is exceptionally large, not principally because of the biologic characteristics of the virus, but rather because of the attributes of the affected populations and because control efforts have been insufficient to halt the spread of infection" - NEJM Sept 2014

"...control efforts have been insufficient to halt the spread..."

Understatement of the day.

Oregon issues toxic algae warning for popular fishing lake

Courtney Sherwood: Oregon health officials worried about the presence of dangerously toxic blue-green algae in waters used by the public issued a new warning on Tuesday, this time for a lake popular for fishing and camping.

Tests on Cullaby Lake, near the northwest Oregon coast, confirmed high levels of microsystin, making waters unsafe for people and their pets, Oregon Health Authority spokesman Jonathan Modie said.

The warning marked the third such caution in less than a week in the Pacific Northwest state, after similar toxic scum was detected last week in Portland's Willamette River and at the Wikiup Reservoir in central Oregon.

"These algae have been around for millions of years," Modie said. "But this summer has been a particularly warm one, and that is good for algae."

Dangerous algae levels have also been found at five other Oregon lakes and ponds since June, although most are in areas not frequented by large populations. Advisories have been lifted at two lakes but remain in place elsewhere.

Toxic blue-green algae is dangerous to touch, drink or inhale. Swallowing or inhaling water contaminated by the algae can cause numbness, digestive distress or fainting, and skin contact can cause a rash.

Filtering the water will not make it safe, and fish or shellfish from the river could be dangerous to eat, the health authority said. Dogs are particularly vulnerable, according to the agency.

Please read more by Source:
Author: Courtney Sherwood
(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Peter Cooney)

IBM’s solar concentrator can produce energy, clean water and AC

IBM Research and Switzerland-based Airlight Energy today announced a new parabolic dish that increases the sun's radiation by 2,000 times while also producing fresh water and air conditioning.

The new Concentrator PhotoVoltaics (CPV) system uses a dense array of water-cooled solar chips that can convert 80% of the sun's radiation into useful energy. Please read full and follow at: Computerworld

2MW Tidal Power Project For Bay Of Fundy

Peak EnergyThe Chronicle Herald has an article on a small-ish tidal power project in Nova Scotia - Fundy Tidal, Ontario firm join for energy project.
A Digby County tidal energy developer is teaming up with an Ontario company to make a 1.95-megawatt tidal project — and possibly more tidal projects — a reality. ... The company's other COMFIT approvals include 500 kilowatt projects in Grand Passage, between Brier Island and Long Island, and in Petit Passage, between Long Island and Digby Neck. They have two more in Cape Breton, a 500 kilowatt project in Great Bras d'Or Channel and one for 100 kilowatts in Barra Strait.

Canada's CBC also has an article on tidal power testing programs in the Bay of Fundy - Bay of Fundy FORCE study looking at tidal power turbine potential.

Understanding the environmental conditions and strength of the current in the Bay of Fundy is important for four consortia — European companies partnered with local Nova Scotia companies — who have committed to spend $9 million on four berths to test their turbines at the demonstration site.

In 2009, OpenHydro of France tried unsuccessfully to deploy a 10-tonne turbine in the Bay of Fundy, but the ultra-strong tidal flows destroyed the machinery within three weeks. Current speeds have been clocked between 10 and 12 knots.

Instead of waiting months for collected data to be retrieved and processed, the new testing platform is connected to an onshore computer at FORCE in Parrsboro via a three-kilometre-long fibre-optic cable that transmits data in real-time. 

Please read full and follow at: Peak Energy

CDC: Ebola Cases Could Reach 1.4 Million In 4 Months

Yet another set of ominous projections about the Ebola epidemic in West Africa was released Tuesday, in a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that gave worst- and best-case estimates for Liberia and Sierra Leone based on computer modeling. In the worst-case scenario, Liberia and Sierra Leone could have21,000 cases of Ebola by Sept. 30 and 1.4 million cases by Jan. 20 if the disease keeps spreading without effective methods to contain it. These figures take into account the fact that many cases go undetected, and estimate that there are actually 2.5 times as many as reported. ... In the best-case model — which assumes that the dead are buried safely and that 70 percent of patients are treated in settings that reduce the risk of transmission — the epidemic in both countries would be 'almost ended' by Jan. 20, the report said.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Sep 23, 2014

First Water-Based Nuclear Battery Can Be Used to Generate Electrical Energy for decades with betavoltaics breakthrough

From cell phones to cars and flashlights, batteries play an important role in everyday life. Scientists and technology. companies constantly are seeking ways to improve battery life and efficiency. Now, for the first time using a water-based solution, researchers at the University of Missouri have created a long-lasting and more efficient nuclear battery that could be used for many applications such as a reliable energy source in automobiles and also in complicated applications such as space flight.

The battery uses a radioactive isotope called strontium-90 that boosts electrochemcial energy in a water-based solution. A nanostructured titanium dioxide electrode (the common element found in sunscreens and UV blockers) with a platinum coating collects and effectively converts energy into electrons.

"Water acts as a buffer and surface plasmons created in the device turned out to be very useful in increasing its efficiency," Kwon said. "The ionic solution is not easily frozen at very low temperatures and could work in a wide variety of applications including car batteries and, if packaged properly, perhaps spacecraft."

The maximum energy conversion efficiency of the MU battery was approximately estimated to be 53.88%. This is an astonishing number for a first trial design. Strontium 90 has a half life of 28.79 years

H/T to New Energy and Fuel

Nature Scientific Reports - Plasmon-assisted radiolytic energy conversion in aqueous solutions
Read more » from Next Big Future

A Strange Cloud Over St. Louis Turns Out to Be an Enormous Swarm of Butterflies

Late last week, meteorologists in St. Louis noticed a cloud acting peculiarly: It was beating a path toward Mexico while changing into a variety of odd shapes. Was it a radar glitch? The debris signature of a south-moving tornado?

The answer was more heartening—and bizarre. After analyzing the reflections,the National Weather Service concluded they showed an immense swarm of Monarch butterflies migrating to their winter home in the Mexican mountains:

(NWS St. Louis)

Here's how it technically arrived at that conclusion, for the weather geeks out there:

Keen observers of our radar data probably noticed some fairly high returns moving south over southern Illinois and central Missouri. High differential reflectivity values as well as low correlation coefficient values indicate these are most likely biological targets. High differential reflectivity indicates these are oblate targets, and low correlation coefficient means the targets are changing shape. We think these targets are Monarch butterflies. A Monarch in flight would look oblate to the radar, and flapping wings would account for the changing shape! NWS St. Louis wishes good luck and a safe journey to these amazing little creatures on their long journey south!

North America's Monarch population has been in decline, reaching record-low numbers in the past couple of years due to habitat loss and perhaps extreme weather. These radar shots provide a spot of good news in that, while struggling, the Monarchs aren't extinct quite yet. Indeed, people on the weather service's Facebook page have reported seeing them fluttering around the region. "They are flying over my Missouri home today," says one. Adds another: "I have been seeing some coming thru OKC in the last week or so. They are beautiful."

Also beautiful—and strange—is that the shape of the swarm itself resembles a giant butterfly. The last time that sort of radar coincidence happened may have been in 2011, when thousands of birds formed into a bird shape above Beebe, Arkansas, right before falling out of the sky, dead.

Sep 22, 2014

Ask Slashdot: Is iOS 8 a Pig?

been using iOS 8 for several days and aside from a few gimmicks and add-ons that attempt to achieve parity with Android, my experience has been overwhelmingly unsatisfactory. My chief complaint is that the vast majority of my apps are slow to boot and noticeably sluggish in operation. I want to point out that all of these apps have been "upgraded" specifically for iOS 8 compatibility. Previous operating system upgrades have been relatively seamless, so I'm asking whether other slashdotters have experienced this degraded performance.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

World Bank: Ebola Will Have 'Catastrophic' Economic Impact

breitbartThe World Bank has issued a report warning against a "catastrophic" economic impact on the West African countries of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone's already fragile economies if they do not put a stop to the spread of the deadly Ebola virus. 

Two different scenarios were reportedly analyzed by the World Bank to calculate the estimated $809 million in damages the three nations would suffer by the end of 2015, according to a report the World Bank published on Wednesday:

A "Low Ebola" scenario envisions rapid containment within the three core countries, while "High Ebola" corresponds to the upper ranges of current epidemiological estimates.

The World Bank also cited "aversion behaviors driven by fear of contagion," including the tendency for people to drop out of the work force to seek refuge from the deadly hemorrhagic (or bleeding out) virus reportedly were also part of the calculated costs. These individuals ditching employment were cited as in great part fueling the damaging economic impact said "fear factor" would have over the population.

Speaking on behalf of the World Bank Group, President Jim Yong Kim noted that while "the primary cost of this tragic outbreak is in human lives and suffering," the widespread economic impact the disease would have could be equally, if not more, crippling. "Today's report underscores the huge potential costs of the epidemic if we don't ramp up our efforts to stop it now," Kim said. 

Please read full and follow at:
Shared via my feedly reader » German Village Produces 500% of Its Energy from Renewable Sources

InhabitatWildpoldsried, a Bavarian village of about 2,600 residents, is leading the way in Germany's extraordinary renewable energy transformation. Over the past 17 years, the village has invested in a holistic range of renewable energy projects that include 4,983 kWp of photovoltaics, five biogas facilities, 11 wind turbines and a hydropower system. As a result, the village has gone beyond energy independence – and it now produces 500% more energy than it needs and profits from sales of the surplus power back to the grid.

Please read full and follow at: Inhabitat

Stanford researchers create 'evolved' protein that may stop cancer from spreading

A team of Stanford researchers has developed a protein therapy that disrupts the process that causes cancer cells to break away from original tumor sites, travel through the bloodstream and start aggressive new growths elsewhere in the body.

This process, known as metastasis, can cause cancer to spread with deadly effect.

"The majority of patients who succumb to cancer fall prey to metastatic forms of the disease," said Jennifer Cochran, an associate professor of bioengineering who describes a new therapeutic approach in Nature Chemical Biology.

Today doctors try to slow or stop metastasis with chemotherapy, but these treatments are unfortunately not very effective and have severe side effects.

The Stanford team seeks to stop metastasis, without side effects, by preventing two proteins – Axl and Gas6 – from interacting to initiate the spread of cancer.

Nature Chemical Biology - An engineered ​Axl 'decoy receptor' effectively silences the ​Gas6-​Axl signaling axis

Read more from Next Big Future

Russia makes progress to closed nuclear fuel cycle

Siberian Chemical Combine (SCC), based in Tomsk, said yesterday it has completed testing of the first full-scale TVS-4 fuel assembly containing nitride fuel. The assembly is intended for the BN-600 fast neutron reactor, which is the third unit of the Beloyarsk nuclear power plant.

These are two new milestones in Russia's 'Proryv', or Breakthrough, project to enable a closed nuclear fuel cycle. The ultimate aim is to eliminate production of radioactive waste from nuclear power generation.

Read more at Next Big Future

Sep 21, 2014

Via Farmworkers, Superbugs Find a Route Away from Drug-Using Farms

Wired  by Maryn McKenna 
One of the persistent questions regarding antibiotic use in meat production, and its effect on the health of humans who live far away from production farms, is: How do the resistant bacteria that result get from one place to another? That is: Most people accept by now that using antibiotics in livestock-raising causes drug resistance […]

The new study finds that hog farmers are carrying multi-drug resistant livestock-associated MRSA away from the farm and — this is the crucial bit — that their bodies are hanging onto those bacteria, in a way that might allow them to spread, for up to 14 days.

A little more detail about the study: It was conducted by 13 researchers with overlapping affiliations: the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill;  the Rural Empowerment Association for Community Help (REACH), a North Carolina nonprofit; the Center for a Livable Future at Johns Hopkins University, and several departments in Hopkins' Bloomberg School of Public Health; and the Statens Serum Institut in Denmark. It recruited 22 farm workers who work on very large-scale intensive hog farms in North Carolina (sight of the biggest concentration of such hog farms in the country), and asked them to swab the inside of their noses — MRSA's favorite hiding place — on a schedule that began when they had been away from work for 24 hours and extended for 14 days.

Their finding: Seven of the 22 workers were carrying livestock-associated MRSA, of a variety of resistance patterns, persistently; that is, it was always in their noses no matter when they were checked during the 2-week study period. Another six were carrying a livestock-associated strain at least some of the time. That is very much higher than you would see in the general population. The rate of appearance of any type of MRSA seldom tops 4 percent. The occurrence of livestock MRSA isn't measured in the United States, so there is no good data about how frequently it occurs.

It's important to note that this state of carrying the germ, called colonization, was invisible: These workers had no visible staph infections at the time they were sampled. But all staph, including drug-resistant staph, has the ability to hang out quiescently on the body for variable amounts of time, in the nostrils, on the skin, or in other warm salty places such as the armpit or groin. Colonization increases the chances that the person carrying the germ will develop a staph infection, and it also alows staph to spread into a home's environment, making it available for others to pick up.

This isn't the first study in the US to link intensive hog raising with "pig MRSA" strains. (There have been many such studies in Europe, where much more attention gets paid to the link between antibiotic use, farms and resistant infections.) Last year, one study found pig MRSA in North Carolina farm workers and an unrelated study found it in Illinois and Indiana farm workers.

There were two other studies in the past 12 months that add to the debate: In November, a research group found higher rates of carriage of any MRSA in people who lived near fields where swine manure was applied as fertilizer, and in January, veterans who live near swine farms in Iowa were shown to be carrying MRSA at 2.76 times the rate of those living further away. That chimes with other data in this new study, which shows hog-farm workers have higher rates of staph strains that are associated with pigs but not yet resistant, and MRSA strains that have not yet passed through hogs and picked up the pig strains' distinctive genetic signature. They also found a swarm of diversity within the pig-associated strains; not just the strain ST- or CC-398, the most common, but six others as well.

Please continue reading post Via Farmworkers, Superbugs Find a Route Away from Drug-Using Farms at WIRED.

Sep 19, 2014

Biological Hazard in USA on Friday, 19 September, 2014

A massive toxic algae called red tide is killing sea turtles, sharks and fish in the northeast Gulf of Mexico and is threatening the waters and beaches that fuel Florida’s economy. Fishermen who make a living off Florida’s coast are reporting fish kills and reddish water. This particular strain of red tide, called Karenia brevis, is present nearly every year off Florida, but large blooms can be particularly devastating. Right now, the algae is collecting in an area about 60 miles wide and 100 miles long, about 5 to 15 miles off St. Petersburg in the south and stretching north to Florida’s Big Bend, where the peninsula ends and the Panhandle begins. Red tide kills fish, manatees and other marine life by releasing a toxin that paralyzes their central nervous system. The algae also foul beaches and can be harmful to people who inhale the algae’s toxins when winds blow onshore or by crashing waves, particularly those with asthma and other respiratory ailments. In 2005, a strong red tide killed reefs, made beaches stinky and caused millions in economic damage. A weaker red tide in 2013 killed 276 manatees, state records show, after infecting the grasses eaten by the endangered creatures. “This red tide … will likely cause considerable damage to our local fisheries and our tourist economy over the next few months,” said Heyward Mathews, an emeritus professor of oceanography at St. Petersburg College who has studied the issue for decades. Despite years of study, there is nothing anyone has been able to do about it. In the 1950s, wildlife officials tried killing the red tide algae by dumping copper sulfate on it, which made the problem worse in some ways. But some researchers are working to change that. Predicting when red tides are going to be especially bad can help fishermen and beach businesses prepare.

Update on Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant

Environment Pollution in Japan on Wednesday, 16 April, 2014 at 03:36 (03:36 AM) UTC.
In what is becoming a macabre "Comedy of Errors," TEPCO officials are again beset with problems at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant. This time, they are blaming the accidental dumping of 200 tons of radioactive water into the wrong place on four pumps. The blame for the accidental dumping of 200 tons of highly radioactive water into a group of buildings used to house the central waste processing facilities last Friday is being blamed on four pumps that were not supposed to be used, but were mysteriously "turned on" by a party or parties unknown. What is really interesting about this story is the fact that the accident was first noticed on Thursday, April 10, but the pumps were not turned off until two days later, on April 13. Recreating the incident, TEPCO officials said the water used for cooling down the molten reactors becomes highly radioactive. The water was supposed to be directed to a storage building used for that purpose, where it is then transferred to a facility for decontamination at a later date. But on April 10, workers noticed that the water level in the buildings that should have been having water pumped out of them was going up, instead of down. Two days later, on April 12, it was finally discovered that the four pumps, supposedly not being used were turned on. Right here, there should be an investigation into why the pumps were still on-line, especially if they were not in use. All four pumps were turned off around 5 p.m. of the 13th. By that time, 200 tons of radioactive water had flooded the wrong buildings. TEPCO reported the incident to the Nuclear Regulatory Authority at that time. The NRA instructed TEPCO to start monitoring the situation so that no leakage would escape the buildings or the facility. Just to make things even more interesting, TEPCO reported another, separate incident on April 13, when one ton of treated radioactive water escaped a leaking storage tank. TEPCO officials said none of the water escaped into the sea. Local authorities have repeatedly asked that TEPCO pinpoint the causes for the numerous problems at the disabled power plant, but TEPCO officials have said very little about any of the problems. In February, over 100 tons of contaminated water leaked from a storage tank due to a deliberately opened valve. According to TEPCO officials, over 100 workers have been interviewed, and so far, no one knows exactly what happened.

The US Military Is Going to Africa to Fight Ebola. Here's What It's Up Against.

Mother JonesOn Tuesday, the White House officially announced that it would be sending US troops to Liberia to fight the Ebola outbreak. The military has already requested to use $500 million from its Overseas Contingency Operations budget to deal with Ebola in West Africa and ISIS in Iraq, and plans to request another $500 million to combat the epidemic, which United Nations officials have said is needed to keep the number of cases in the "tens of thousands." (So far, the World Health Organization is aware of about 5,000 people who it believes have been infected in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone, although it says the actual toll is probably much higher.)

But as the military heads to Liberia, concerns over the region's stability—and to what degree US troops will be involved in maintaining it—still hover over the entire operation.

The core of the military's 3,000-troop mission in Liberia will be medical—building treatment centers and training medical staff by the hundreds to run them. But the outbreak and resulting panic have caused other problems, some of which the military will deal with, and others that they may try to avoid. One major problem is a food crisis: Liberia imports about two-thirds of its grain supply, but as its neighbors have closed their borders to prevent the disease from spreading and shipping into the country has slowed, food has become scarcer, and prices have increased. To ease this situation, the US operation will help to distribute food aid in the country.

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Study Finds Link Between Artificial Sweeteners and Glucose Intolerance

The journal Nature released a study today that reveals a link between the consumption of artificial sweeteners and the development of glucose intolerance [note: abstract online; paper itself is paywalled], a leading risk factor for the development of type 2 diabetes, citing a critical alteration of intestinal bacteria. Paradoxically, these non-caloric sweeteners, which can be up to 20,000 times sweeter than natural sugars, are often recommended to diabetes patients to control blood glucose levels. Sugar substitutes have come under additional fire lately from studies showing that eating artificially sweetened foods can lead to greater overall calorie consumption and even weight gain. While some, especially food industry officials, remain highly skeptical of such studies, more research still needs to be done to determine the actual risks these substances may pose to health.Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Largest city in Vermont now gets all its power from wind, solar and biomass

Think Progress - The 42,000 people living in Burlington, Vermont can now feel confident that when they turn on their TVs or power up their computers they are using renewable energy. With the purchase of the 7.4 megawatt Winooski One hydroelectric project earlier this month, the Burlington Electric Department now owns or contracts renewable sources — including wind, hydro, and biomass — equivalent to the city's needs.

"We're now in a position where we're supplying Burlington residents with sources that are renewable," said Ken Nolan, manager of power resources for Burlington Electric Department, earlier this month. "The prices are not tied to fossil fuels — they're stable prices — and they provide us with the flexibility, from an environmental standpoint, to really react to any regulation or changes to environmental standards that come in the future."

According to Nolan, the utility will get about one-third of its power from the Joseph C. McNeil Generating Station, one-third from wind energy contracts, and one-third from the hydroelectric stations Winooski One and Hydro-Qu├ębec. The McNeil power station is a biomass facility that primarily uses wood chips from logging residue leftover from the harvesting of wood for other products.
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Sep 18, 2014

Governor signs first California groundwater rules

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- California will no longer be the last Western state with a pump-as-you-please approach to groundwater.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation on Tuesday overhauling the state's management of its groundwater supply, bringing it in line with other states that have long regulated their wells.

Groundwater makes up nearly 60 percent of California's water use during dry years. But it is not monitored and managed the same way as water from reservoirs and rivers.

Supporters of the legislation say the worst drought in a generation inspired them to rethink the state's hands-off approach to tapping wells, which has led to sinking land and billions of dollars in damage to aquifers, roads and canals.

'This is a big deal,' Brown said at the signing ceremony in his office. 'It has been known about for decades that underground water has to be managed and regulated in some way.'

The package signed into law requires some local governments and water districts to begin managing their wells, and it authorizes state water agencies to intervene if necessary. It also allows for water metering and fines to monitor and enforce restrictions.

SB1168, SB1319 and AB1739 by Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, and Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, passed in the final days of the legislative session over objections from Republican lawmakers and Central Valley Democrats.

The opposition was driven by agricultural interests that are increasingly dependent on pumping from wells as reservoirs dry up and government water allocations plunge in the drought. They say the legislation was rushed and punishes well-managed agencies while infringing on property rights.

'While there is legitimate concern about the over-drafting of some groundwater basins, this massive expansion of state authority will not solve the problem,' said Assembly Minority Leader Connie Conway, R-Tulare.

Brown said in a signing message he would push for legislation next year to streamline resolutions in disputes over groundwater rights.

Unlike other states that treat groundwater as a shared resource, California property owners have been entitled to tap water beneath their land since the Gold Rush days.

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Antibiotics used by major poultry companies pose risks for humans, Reuters investigation finds

Tim Mandell: Major U.S., poultry companies, including Tyson FoodsPilgrim's PridePerdue FarmsGeorge's and Koch Foods, are using antibiotics at such high rates that the drugs are killing off weaker bacteria while allowing drug-resistant bacteria to flourish, posing a potential risk to human health, Brian Grow and P.J. Huffstutter report for ReutersSeven strains of Salmonella Heidelberg linked to Foster Farms have made more than 600 people ill since 2013.

Around 80 percent of all antibiotics used in the U.S. are given to livestock, Grow and Huffstutter write. "About 390 medications containing antibiotics have been approved to treat illness, stave off disease and promote growth in farm animals. But the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has reviewed just 7 percent of those drugs for their likelihood of creating antibiotic-resistant superbugs, a Reuters data analysis found." 
Reuters reviewed more than 320 feed tickets from six major poultry companies during the past two years, finding that in every instance "the doses were at the low levels that scientists say are especially conducive to the growth of so-called superbugs, bacteria that gain resistance to conventional medicines used to treat people," Grow and Huffstutter write.

Two producers, George's and Koch Foods, "have administered drugs belonging to the same classes of antibiotics used to treat infections in humans," Grow and Huffstutter write. "The practice is legal. But many medical scientists deem it particularly dangerous because it runs the risk of promoting superbugs that can defeat the life-saving human antibiotics."

The poultry industry said the antibiotics pose little threat to humans, Grow and Huffstutter write. Tom Super, spokesman for the National Chicken Council, told Reuters, "Several scientific, peer reviewed risk assessments demonstrate that resistance emerging in animals and transferring to humans does not happen in measurable amounts, if at all." He said using antibiotics to prevent diseases in flocks "is good, prudent veterinary medicine. . . . Prevention of the disease prevents unnecessary suffering and prevents the overuse of potentially medically important antibiotics in treatment of sick birds." 

Health authorities disagree. The "World Health Organization called antibiotic resistance 'a problem so serious it threatens the achievements of modern medicine,'" Reuters writes. The annual cost to battle antibiotic-resistant infections is estimated at $21 billion to $34 billion in the U.S., WHO said. Each year, about 430,000 people in the U.S. become ill from food-borne bacteria that resist conventional antibiotics, according to a July report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Overall, the CDC estimates that 2 million people are sickened in the U.S. annually with infections resistant to antibiotics and at least 23,000 people die. (Read more

Study links injection wells to earthquakes in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico

The Rural BlogA dramatic rise in earthquakes since 2001 in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico can be linked to deep injection of wastewater underground, says a study by the the U.S. Geological Survey to be published in the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America

The study said that the Raton Basin, which straddles New Mexico and Colorado, had one earthquake of 3.8 magnitude or higher from 1972 to 2001, but since the area has seen an increase in drilling, the area had 16 earthquakes from 2001 to 2013, Tamara Audi reports for The Wall Street Journal. "A magnitude 5.3 quake in August 2011 occurred near two injection wells. The wells were just a few miles from the site of the quake and were injecting 'more than 400,000 barrels of wastewater per month' in the 16 months before the quake, the study said." (WSJ graphic)

Researchers said that since mid-2000 the total injection rate of the 21 high-volume wastewater disposal wells in Colorado and seven in New Mexico, have ranged from 1.5 to 3.6 million barrels per month," Daniel Wallis reports for Reuters. "They said the timing and location of seismic events correspond to the documented pattern of injected wastewater and that their findings suggest seismic events are initiated shortly after an increase in injection rates." (Read more)  

Long-lasting, water-based nuclear battery developed

GizmagResearchers working at the University of Missouri (MU) claim to have produced a prototype of a nuclear-powered, water-based battery that is said to be both longer lasting and more efficient than current battery technologies and may eventually be used as a dependable power supply in vehicles, spacecraft, and other applications where longevity, reliability, and efficiency are paramount... Continue Reading Long-lasting, water-based nuclear battery developed 

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Sep 17, 2014

Google invests $145m to turn oil field into solar plant

Peak EnergyRNE has alook at Google's latest clean energy investment - Google invests $145m to turn oil field into solar plant.
US tech giant Google has signed up for its 17th renewable energy project, to put $145 million towards an 82 megawatt solar project being built by SunEdison on a former oil and gas field. The deal, announced last week, puts the internet search company's clean energy investment tab at more than $1.5 billion, for projects spanning three continents and totalling a capacity of more than 2.5GW.

This latest, the "Regulus" solar project in Google's home state of California, will be SunEdison's largest in North America once finished, comprising more than 248,000 monocrystalline solar PV panels spanning 737 acres.Solar-google-logo "Over the years, this particular site in California has gone from 30 oil wells to five as it was exhausted of profitable fossil fuel reserves," writes Google's renewable energy principal Nick Coons on Google's blog. "The land sat for some time and today we're ready to spiff things up."

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House Passes Waters of U.S. Regulatory Overreach Bill. EPA - proposed rule clarifies protection for streams and wetlands.

ACA: On Sept. 9, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 5078, the Waters of the United States Regulatory Overreach Protection Act, by a vote of 262–152. The legislation would prohibit the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from “developing, finalizing, adopting, implementing, applying, administering, or enforcing” the proposed waters of the U.S. rule or any associated guidance that attempts to clarify the scope of the Clean Water Act.

H.R. 5078 requires the EPA and the Corps to revisit the proposed rule with direct consultation with state and local officials to determine which bodies of water should be covered under the Clean Water Act.

EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers jointly released a proposed rule on April 21, “Definition of Waters of the United States Under the Clean Water Act,” designed to clarify which waterways are subject to the Clean Water Act (CWA) discharge permitting requirements. Because the CWA affects many aspects of federal and state regulation, some are calling this proposed rule the most significant CWA development in years.

EPA has stated that the proposed rule does not protect any new types of waters that have not been covered under the CWA, and will reduce confusion about CWA protection since the landscape has been complex following Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006. EPA issued a press release stating that the proposed rule will benefit businesses by increasing efficiency in determining coverage of the CWA.

According to EPA, the proposed rule clarifies protection for streams and wetlands. “The proposed definitions of waters will apply to all Clean Water Act programs. It does not protect any new types of waters that have not historically been covered under the Clean Water Act and is consistent with the Supreme Court’s more narrow reading of Clean Water Act jurisdiction,” EPA stated in a press release.

The also stated that the proposed rule clarifies that under the CWA and based on science:
[*] Most seasonal and rain-dependent streams are protected;
[*] Wetlands near rivers and streams are protected;
[*] Other types of waters may have more uncertain connections with downstream water and protection will be evaluated through a case-specific analysis of whether the connection is or is not significant.

This new category known as “other waters”— waters that do not fit into any predefined categories — essentially gives EPA the authority to determine that a body of water falls within the “waters of the U.S.” jurisdiction if it shows, either alone or in combination with other “similarly situated” waters in the region, that the water has a “significant nexus” to traditional navigable waters. The proposed rule also creates definitions for “tributary” and “neighboring waters.” Furthermore, the definitions now include adjacent wetlands and “waters,” which were formerly just adjacent wetlands.

Many industries, as well as members of Congress, have criticized that this proposed rule does not simply clarify CWA jurisdiction, but that it is effectively an expansion of CWA jurisdiction and would expand federal authority over streams, ditches, ponds, and other local water bodies, and they have also expressed concerns with the ambiguity of some of the proposed definitions. In particular, the fact that the proposal would allow for EPA to define, on a case-by-case basis, any waters as being within their jurisdiction has created serious concerns among industry. Industries have also indicated that the proposal would deviate from the spirit of current law that applies specifically to truly “navigable waters.”

ACA and its Environmental Management Committee are closely monitoring the proposed rule and its potential impact on our industry, particularly issues relating to storm water, wastewater, and EPA’s Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) Rule.

ECHA Releases New European Guidance on Efficacy Testing for Antifouling Products

This summer, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) issued new Guidance for the Efficacy Testing of Antifouling Products. This new ECHA document will be included in the new guidance structure under the Biocidal Products Regulations (BPR). The new ECHA guidance is intended to provide applicants with a description of how to document efficacy when applying for approval for antifouling products under the EU BPR. It provides detailed procedures on how to conduct static raft testing and how to report the results.

Together with CEPE (the European coatings and printing ink association), the International Paint and Printing Ink Council (IPPIC) has a procedure for Efficacy Evaluation of Antifouling Products that is annexed with the new ECHA guidance. However, the degree of rigor and amount of data asked for in the EU guidance goes beyond the recommendations in this industry methodology.

The coatings industry — in particular, the marine coatings sector — has worked closely with the EU for several years to initiate and finalize this ECHA guidance. Efficacy testing is part of product development processes that can take years; with ECHA’s new guidance, industry will know exactly what data is required under the BPR. As such, industry now has to be able to design test procedures in accordance with what has to be provided in the various EU countries.

Of note, antifouling products will not be evaluated under the BPR at the EU level, but rather, by Evaluating Member States chosen by each applicant.

The new ECHA guidance is posted on the organization’s website at

100% Of Power For Vermont City Now Renewable

BURLINGTON, Vt. — Vermont's largest city has a new success to add to its list of socially conscious achievements: 100 percent of its electricity now comes from renewable sources such as wind, water, and biomass. With little fanfare, the Burlington Electric Department crossed the threshold this month with the purchase of the 7.4-megawatt Winooski 1 hydroelectric project on the Winooski River at the city's edge. When it did, Burlington joined the Washington Electric Co-operative, which has about 11,000 customers across central and northern Vermont and which reached 100 percent earlier this year. ''It shows that we're able to do it, and we're able to do it cost effectively in a way that makes Vermonters really positioned well for the future,'' said Christopher Recchia, the commissioner of the Vermont Department of Public Service. 
Please continue reading from: 100% Of Power For Vermont City Now Renewable

Ocean Thermal Energy: Back From the Deep

Peak Energy
IEEE Spectrum has a look at a new OTEC pilot plant in Hawaii - Ocean Thermal Energy: Back From the Deep.
The finished facility, which will be only a bit higher in capacity than existing test plants in Japan and South Korea, is quite modest by energy production standards. The plant will be able to produce at most 100 kilowatts of power—enough, when operating continuously, to supply electricity to about 80 average American homes.

The plant and its pumps will consume most of the energy produced. But Makai's plant is geared toward research, Eldred notes, not energy generation. The facility was built primarily to design and test heat exchangers, which are among the most expensive components of an OTEC plant. With the addition of a turbine, Eldred says, Makai will be able to design an automatic control system and improve both performance and cost predictions for its commercial plant designs. The company also hopes to get a sense of how fluctuations in the temperature and pressure of ocean water will alter power output, a factor that might prove significant for wave-tossed offshore plants.

That's likely to be where OTEC energy production winds up. A 10-megawatt plant, such as one that Lockheed Martin aims to build for China's Reignwood Group, will require a cold-water pipe that is several meters wide. A plant floating in open water could send a pipe straight to the depth required instead of diagonally, down a long slope extending out from shore. That would make for a shorter and less expensive pipe, reduce the impact on the landscape, and cut down on the energy required to pump the cold water.

The first large-scale plant to make the leap could be New Energy for Martinique and Overseas (NEMO), says Luis Vega of the University of Hawaii's National Marine Renewable Energy Center. The project, which is a collaboration between renewable energy firm Akuo Energy and naval defense company DCNS, both based in Paris, plans to construct a 16-MW plant about 5 kilometers off the shore of the island of Martinique.

Construction is set to start next year, and the team aims to have the plant operational in four years. When complete, NEMO should be able to supply some 11 MW of energy to the Caribbean island, with the other 5 MW powering the plant and its pumps.

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Peak Energy

Sep 15, 2014

FREE Public Health Disaster Research Response Webinar

You are invited to attend a webinar focused on such public health emergencies and the ways in which researchers are working to better understand disaster-related health effects. Disaster research is important to improving responders' knowledge and skills, as well as informing public health and healthcare professionals. Collecting data immediately following a disaster is extremely difficult and dangerous and must be done without hampering disaster response. How are government officials and academics responding to this need? Please mark your calendar for an upcoming webinar that will address this timely issue.

Public Health Disaster Research Response
September 19, 2014, 1:00-2:15 p.m. EDT
To participate, please see Webinar Information at:

Description: Public health emergencies pose many adverse health effects for local communities and the first responders. However, there is a recognized knowledge gap regarding the environmental exposures during the disaster and the potential health outcomes. The recent call to action, "Research as Part of Public Health Emergency Response," authored by the NIH Director, the HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, and the CDC Director, voiced the critical need for well-designed, effectively executed research to address these pressing knowledge gaps. These public health emergencies present challenges to the research community because of their unpredictable onset as well as their health and environmental effects. Currently, human subjects research in the period immediately following disasters is hampered by the time needed to design protocols and implement data collection, so the opportunity to acquire crucial early epidemiologic, medical, and environmental data and samples is usually missed. The NIEHS, HHS, other federal agencies, and the academic community are working to address this need.

In this webinar, we will hear about the current Public Health Disaster Research Response (DR2) and Science Preparedness efforts to help respond to the need for timely research.

Anthony Barone, M.P.H.
Senior Management Analyst - Emergency Management, GAP Solutions, Inc.
Assigned to the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR)

Aubrey Miller, M.D., M.P.H.
Senior Medical Advisor, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

Sharon Petronella Croisant, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston

We look forward to your participation!

California deems carpooling via all ride-share services illegal

CNET-  California regulators have sent warning letters to Uber, Lyft and Sidecar to say that their new carpool features are illegal.

Sidecar revealed Thursday that it received the letter from the California Public Utilities Commission, which said the ride-sharing service was breaking the law by testing its new Shared Rides, or carpool, feature.

A Lyft spokesperson told CNET that it too received a similar letter. Initially, Uber told CNET that it didn't get the letter but now the company says it was indeed contacted by the CPUC. The CPUC also confirmed with CNET that it sent two copies of the letter to Uber -- one to company CEO Travis Kalanick and one to Chairman Garrett Camp -- on September 8.

"Uber recently announced its intent to offer a new transportation service known as UberPool," the CPUC letter reads. "Uber has not yet approached the Commission regarding the UberPool service... Uber's proposed transportation service violates existing California law."

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Solar Powered Technology Enhances Oil Recovery

Royal Dutch Shell has teamed with a sovereign investment fund from Oman to invest $53 million in a company that manufactures solar power equipment designed for increasing oil production. Glasspoint Solar Inc. installs aluminum mirrors near oil fields that concentrate solar radiation on insulated tubes containing water. The steam generated from heating the water is injected into oil fields to recover heavy crude oil. This concept of enhanced oil recovery. involves high pressure injection of hot fluids to recover heavy crude oil. The use of renewable energy like solar power makes great economic sense, as the fuel cost associated with this enhanced oil recovery technology is practically zero. Shell hopes to employ this technology in its oil fields in Oman. The company hopes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with enhanced oil recovery operations. A large-scale successful implementation of this technology could be a game changer for major consumers like India and the U.S.. Both have substantial oil reserves, but are unable to tap them due to high costs involved in heavy oil recovery.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.