Date: 11-Mar-10
Country: US
Author: Jon Hurdle

Obama Aide Urges Listing Of Gas-Drilling Chemicals Photo: Jon  Hurdle/Files
A worker at EnCana’s Frenchie Draw gas-drilling rig in central Wyoming guides sections of steel pipe into an 11,000-foot well in this September 19, 2009 file photo.
Photo: Jon Hurdle/Files

President Barack Obama’s top environmental adviser urged the natural gas industry on Tuesday to disclose the chemicals it uses in drilling, warning that the development of massive U.S. shale gas reserves could be held back otherwise.

Joseph Aldy, special assistant to the president for energy and the environment, said concerns about water contamination from drilling chemicals could lead to states requiring disclosure and that could deter additional investment.

“You can’t leave this in the status quo if you think we are going to have significant shale gas development in the United States,” Aldy told Reuters after a natural gas conference.

Some energy companies decline to publish lists of toxic chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, a technique used to extract natural gas from shale beds far underground.

Companies have been under pressure from critics of fracturing and from some lawmakers, who say the technique is damaging the water supplies of people who live near gas rigs.

Aldy said it is unclear whether fracturing chemicals are fouling groundwater but acknowledged the industry is under pressure from those who say the process leads to contamination with chemicals that can cause a range of illnesses.

“I don’t think we have the information to assess that,” he said.

Aldy said the industry could disclose the chemicals voluntarily, as some companies already do, or through regulation.

He declined to say whether the Obama administration supports the “Frack Act,” a Congressional bill that would require drilling companies to disclose the chemicals and give the Environmental Protection Agency oversight over the industry, which is now regulated by the states.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said on Monday she was “very concerned” about the composition of fracturing fluids and that she hoped the agency would conduct a study this year if it obtained funding.

U.S. shale gas reserves are estimated to contain enough of the clean-burning fuel to meet national demand for at least a century. A current boom in development has been made possible by fracturing technology that injects water, sand and a mix of chemicals to fracture the shale at high pressure.

(Editing by John O’Callaghan)

Environmental justice means the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to environmental policies.

The Faces of the Grassroots contest is an opportunity to publicly exhibit creativity with environmental justice stories, and connect with others working to raise awareness of the movement.

Videos can focus on any environmental justice activity, issue, or topic. Examples would be a music video about climate change, or a video recording a successful environmental justice project that has made a community a healthier and happier place to live.

Awards will be given to the winning submissions in each category. The videos will also be featured on EPA’s Web site and may be used as public service announcements.

Entries must be received by 11:59 p.m. EST on Thursday, April 8, 2010. EPA will announce winners in honor of the 40th anniversary of Earth Day.

Categories and prize money:

Public Service Announcements (30 or 60 seconds)
1st Place – $2,500
2nd Place – $1,500
3rd Place – $1,000
Student Winner – $500 (13-18 years old)

Informational Video (3-5 minutes)
1st Place – $2,500
2nd Place – $1,500
3rd Place – $1,000
Student Winner – $500 (13-18 years old)

More information and the promotional video: http://www.epa.gov/compliance/environmentaljustice/events/video-contest.html

protect and defend our ecosystems

Date: 16-Feb-10
Country: US
Author: Maggie Fox

WASHINGTON – The coastal fog that gives San Francisco its romantic ambiance is thinning out, a boon to drivers but a real threat to the giant redwoods there, researchers reported on Monday.

It in unclear if natural climate variations or human activity is to blame, but the result could be the loss of trees, they reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Fog prevents water loss from redwoods in summer, and is really important for both the tree and the forest,” biologist Todd Dawson of the University of California Berkeley said in a statement.

“The coast redwood is the tallest living tree species and notably long-lived, with some individuals exceeding 2,000 years in age,” the researchers wrote in their report, available here

“If the fog is gone, we might not have the redwood forests we do now.”

Dawson and colleagues estimated the frequency of fog by looking at weather records, especially airport records dating back to 1951.

“Since 1901, the average number of hours of fog along the coast in summer has dropped from 56 percent to 42 percent, which is a loss of about three hours per day,” said Berkeley’s James Johnstone, who led the study.

The fog is caused by cool surface waters of the Pacific Ocean meeting warm air from the interior of California. It is held in place by an inversion, caused when cooler air is trapped closer to the surface.

“The data support the idea that Northern California coastal fog has decreased in connection with a decline in the coast-inland temperature gradient and weakening of the summer temperature inversion,” Johnstone said.

“As fog decreases, the mature redwoods along the coast are not likely to die outright, but there may be less recruitment of new trees,” Dawson added. “They will look elsewhere for water, high humidity and cooler temperatures.”

The coast redwood, known scientifically as Sequoia sempervirens, is naturally found in a very narrow band along the northeast Pacific coast.

The researchers found changes all the way down the coast from northernmost California to San Diego.

“Fog is clearly a dominant climatic factor on the California coast, and long-term reductions likely have and may continue to impact the water and carbon economy of redwoods and other coastal endemic species,” they concluded.

(Editing by Sandra Maler)

© Thomson Reuters 2010 All rights reserved

by Brian Merchant, Brooklyn, New York on 01.27.10

eats radioactive waste

Photo via Science Daily

// Nuclear waste is probably the most dreaded substances in existence, in part because it’s proved so difficult to effectively clean up and store. But a stunning new breakthrough has just surfaced that may make cleaning up radioactive waste easier and much more efficient–and the solution takes its inspiration from one of everyone’s favorite creepy plants. Researchers have developed a material that opens its pores to let in its intended prey–the radioactive ion cesium–then “snaps shut” to entrap it, according to Science Daily. It’s a Venus Flytrap that eats radioactive waste instead of flies.

The flytrap-like material is evidently a snythetic material made from “layers of a gallium, sulfur and antimony compound,” and was developed by researchers at Northwestern University.

The radioactive ion cesium, found in nuclear waste, is very difficult to clean up. And that’s because the ratio of harmless sodium ions to dangerous radioactive cesium ions is 1,000 to 1. There’s tons more sodium than cesium–one scientist on the project even said that looking for the radioactive material in nuclear waste is “like looking for a needle in a haystack.” But the material the scientists developed turned out to be extremely adept at removing the cesium from a sodium-heavy solution–thanks to its Venus flytrap-like qualities.

SD explains:

It is, in fact, cesium itself that triggers a structural change in the material, causing it to snap shut its pores, or windows, and trap the cesium ions within. The material sequesters 100 percent of the cesium ions from the solution while at the same time ignoring all the sodium ions.

Which is pretty amazing–a material that can selectively snag and confine only the radioactive ions in nuclear waste could be instrumental in nuclear waste cleanup. Especially since there are over a hundred nuclear power plants across the US keeping their radioactive waste in storage onsite.

excessive radioactivity

One of the most fascinating things about the discovery is how it can trap literally every single radioactive cesium ion without bothering to absorb any sodium ions–sort of like how a Venus Flytrap doesn’t bother with drops of rain or debris that falls into its ‘mouth’ and attacks only the flies. Again, SD explains how this works:

The snap-shut Venus flytrap mechanism occurs because ‘soft’ materials like to interact with each other. A cesium ion is big and soft, and the metal-sulfide material is soft, too. The cesium ions are attracted to the material, specifically the sulfur atoms, and together form a weak bond. This interaction causes the material to change shape, close its windows and trap the cesium — like a juicy insect in a flytrap. Sodium, which is clothed in water molecules, can’t trigger the response.

It will certainly be interesting to see how this develops, and if this can successfully be transformed into a major new way to cleanup nuclear waste.

SOURCE:   http://www.treehugger.com/files/2010/01/venust-flytrap-snares-radioactive-waste.php?campaign=daily_nl

More on Nuclear Waste Cleanup
E. Coli Can Be Used To Clean Up Nuclear Waste
Plan to Import 20000 Tons of Italian Nuclear Waste into Utah
Will South Carolina Become the Nation’s Premier Nuclear Waste Depository?

by John Laumer, Philadelphia on 01.21.10

big suv photo
Big ol’ Chevy Tahoe. Image credit:AutoWeek.

The Star-Telegram is reporting that “The health effects of air pollution are a major topic in Texas because the state is one of the most polluted in the country. A recent survey by Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth found that 1 in 4 children in North Texas has asthma, which can be both caused and aggravated by air pollution.” This in the context of a recent study which documented Texas kids are “more likely to miss school when certain types of air pollution increase.”

There’s no one source to point the finger of blame at. It’s about a predilection for big smoggy vehicles, refinery and petrochemical emissions, coal-burning power plants, ships and barges, and so on. The point is….

Environmental quality impacts school performance (my inference based on the correlation reported). I’m betting it’s not just in Texas that this potential correlation could be found.

Clearly, many US elected officials do not yet ‘connect the environmental dots’ linking air quality to quality of life and to learning, nor are some powerful corporate constituents wanting them to. For a clear demonstration of the latter effect, look no further than Alaskan Senator Murkowski , who is sponsoring an amendment that prevents USEPA from regulating greenhouse gases. To see who’s got the most horses in that rodeo read Senator Who Hopes to Block EPA from Regulating Greenhouse Gas Pollution is Top Fundraiser from Utility Companies

Who needs that permafrost anyhow?

Failing to have much trust in the sciences and still stuck on libertarian romanticism, it takes exploding underpants to get attention to the business of ‘dot connecting.’ How long before a Texas congress-critter tacks an amendment onto a Federal budget bill, preventing EPA from regulating smog causing emissions? Not long is my guess.

Who needs that book learnin’ anyhow?

Three more dots.

  • I wonder how many corporations pay big-time health care benefits for employee family asthma treatments while giving money to lobbyists who want to slow down air quality regulation enforcement?
  • China bears some of the responsibility for Texas AQ degradation.
  • As reported in an AFP release on Yahoo News.

Pollution from Asia is boosting levels of ozone in the skies above the western United States, a trend that could hamper US efforts to meet tougher smog standards,…The findings are important, as previous research suggests pollution at the altitude monitored in the study can descend and mix with surface air.If so, a long-standing question may be answered. There has been a rise in ozone levels in parts of the rural western United States, but there is little road traffic or industry in these regions to explain the increase.

The paper says the phenomenon could have repercussions for efforts in the United States to roll back its smog problem with tougher car-exhaust measures and other initiatives.

    Are you still with me on this?

  • Taking a leadership role in climate action enables the USA to add more pressure on China to clean up the emissions of both greenhouse cases and the associated smog causing emissions that float over rural Texas.

Mike’s adjacent post on the Chinese smog effect on Western USA is worth a look:

That’s all the dots I have for now.

More posts about Texas air quality.
Texas Coal Fired Utility Building ‘Alamo of Coal’
Texas PTA Partners With Government for Cleaner School Buses
Texas Board of Ed Neuters Science Textbooks’ Global Warming

Date: 19-Nov-09
Country: US
Author: Reuters

Russia toughened on Wednesday its goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions, saying it would target a 25 percent reduction from 1990 levels by 2020 compared with a 10-15 percent pledge previously.

Following are the negotiating positions of the top greenhouse gas emitters before a U.N. meeting in Copenhagen in December due to agree a new global climate deal.

1) CHINA (annual emissions of greenhouse gases: 6.8 billion tonnes, 5.5 tonnes per capita)

* Emissions – President Hu Jintao promised that China would cut its carbon dioxide emissions per dollar of economic output by a “notable margin” by 2020 compared with 2005. The “carbon intensity” goal is the first measurable curb on national emissions in China. Hu reiterated a promise that China would try to raise the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to 15 percent by 2020.

* Demands – China wants developed nations to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2020 and to promise far more aid and green technology.

2) UNITED STATES (6.4 billion tonnes, 21.2 tonnes per capita)

* Emissions – President Barack Obama wants to cut U.S. emissions back to 1990 levels by 2020, a 17 percent cut from 2005 levels, and to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

* Obama says he wants an accord in Copenhagen that covers all the issues and that has “immediate operational effect.

Legislation to cut emissions by 20 percent from 2005 levels had been approved by a Senate Committee but people few think it can become law before the Copenhagen talks.

* Finance – The United States says a “dramatic increase” is needed in funds to help developing nations.

* Demands – “We cannot meet this challenge unless all the largest emitters of greenhouse gas pollution act together,” Obama said.

3) EUROPEAN UNION (5.03 billion tonnes, 10.2 tonnes per capita)

* Emissions – EU leaders agreed in December 2008 to cut emissions by 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 and by 30 percent if other developed nations follow suit.

* Finance – EU leaders have agreed that developing nations will need about 100 billion euros ($147 billion) a year by 2020 to help them curb emissions and adapt to changes such as floods or heatwaves. As an advance payment, they suggest 5-7 billion a year between 2010 and 2012.

* Demands – The EU wants developing nations to curb the rise of their emissions by 15 to 30 percent below a trajectory of “business as usual” by 2020.

4) RUSSIA (1.7 billion tonnes, 11.9 tonnes per capita)

* Emissions – Cut greenhouse gases by 22-25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. That means a rise from now — emissions were 34 percent below 1990 levels in 2007.

5) INDIA (1.4 billion tonnes, 1.2 tonnes per capita)

* Emissions – India is prepared to quantify the amount of greenhouse gas emissions it could cut with domestic actions, but will not accept internationally binding targets, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said. [ID:nDEL381436]. India has said its per capita emissions will never rise to match those of developed nations.

* Demands – Like China, India wants rich nations to cut emissions by at least 40 percent by 2020. But Ramesh signaled room to compromise: “It’s a negotiation. We’ve given a number of 40 percent but one has to be realistic.

6) JAPAN (1.4 billion tonnes, 11.0 tonnes per capita)

* Emissions – Cut Japan’s emissions by 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 if Copenhagen agrees an ambitious deal.

* Finance – Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama told the United Nations that Tokyo would also step up aid.

7) SOUTH KOREA (142 million tonnes, 2.9 tonnes per capita)

* Emissions – Cut emissions by 30 percent below “business as usual” levels by 2020, which is equivalent to a 4 percent cut from 2005 levels.

8) BRAZIL (111 million tonnes, 0.6 tonnes per capita)

* Emissions – Will cut its emissions by between 36.1 percent and 38.9 percent from projected 2020 levels, representing a 20 percent cut below 2005 levels.

9) INDONESIA (100 million tonnes, 0.4 tonnes per capita)

* Emissions – Aims to cut emissions by 26 percent by 2020 below “business as usual” levels.

Taking CO2 from deforestation into account, Indonesia is the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

by Jaymi Heimbuch, San Francisco, California http://www.treehugger.com/images_site/feed-icon-10x10.pngon 10.27.09

light-switches-on-redPhoto via Robert S Donovan

It doesn’t take inventing a whole lot of new technology to save a whole lot of GHGs. It just take a whole lot of people utilizing the simple, inexpensive technologies we already have rolling out that help cut down on energy consumption. If US consumers used existing technology to its fullest, we’d save a whole France-worth of carbon emissions, according to a study in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science. And to get more people to be savvy about what options are already on the table, scientists say social networking will play a role.

Ars Technica reports, “The authors make a compelling case that behavioral changes [such as getting people to use simple, inexpensive technologies and low-tech solutions to energy efficiency], which can be amplified by social networks, are probably easier to generate and produce quicker results than the actual deployment of high-tech hardware. And they cite a variety of studies to indicate that, in a lot of ways, we probably understand how to produce behavioral changes better than we know how to deploy unproven tech.”

Some of the low tech solutions with the highest adoption rates are home weatherization, with 90% adoption, more energy efficient appliances, with an 80% adoption, and fuel-efficient vehicles, with a 50% adoption. These now-tech solutions, when calculated over a 10-year adoption rate, would cut US carbon emission by about 7.4% of total national emissions – an amount just a touch higher than what France spits out. On top of that, about 60% of the total financial savings of reduced energy use would come within the first five years, making the payoff for behavioral changes readily apparent.

So what will get people to make the behavioral changes? The authors point out programs that offer money for efficiency, such as with the cash for clunkers program, or with rebates for purchasing energy efficient appliances. However, we’ve also seen that making energy usage information available to people will also help reduce energy consumption or improve driving practices. A financial incentive to save more on monthly energy and fuel bills will likely spur more consumers into improvements like weatherization, and better driving (or carpooling) practices.

The idea of social networking factoring in is interesting as well. Several energy dashboard companies mention elements to their products that allow users to compete with people in their area, using that competitive spirit to boost energy efficient behavior. We’ve also seen the idea of World of Warcraft-like games as a way of getting people to put the environment first, and of course there’s the example of Tweet-A-Watt as a way to blast your energy usage data out to followers and having to publicly walk the talk. All of these are behavioral incentives that use existing technology.

While cutting carbon emissions by 7.4% won’t get us nearly to our goal – we need to cut our emissions by 80%, like, now – it is a big chunk that helps us get to the goal, and it’s all changes based on tools we already have at our disposal.

Will we actually make the changes that would cut a whole country’s worth of GHGs from our output? Well, let’s hope so. With 350.org’s Day of Action just passed and COP15 rapidly approaching, carbon emissions are at the top of people’s minds, and ways to reduce them have never seemed so important. The fact that we don’t need to wait on futuristic technologies to make some big changes is encouraging.

More on Cutting Carbon Emissions
Contraception Five Times Less Expensive Than Low-Carbon Technology in Combating Climate Change
7 Overrated Technologies and Their Underrated Low-Tech Alternatives
Reduce Your Carbon Footprint by Half in Three Steps