Archive for USA
www.latimes.com 29th January 2011
The US Geological Survey has tracked a female polar bear swimming for 426 miles in order to find an ice-flow in the Beaufort Sea. The epic journey took 9 days and came at a heavy cost. It was reported that she set out with her cub but the little one did not survive the trip. Furthermore, the length of her swim resulted in the bear losing 22% of her body weight. With little in the way of food at her destination, it is unlikely she will be able to recover. The marathon journey is yet another example of the extent ice is melting in the arctic region due to climate change. During the autumn open water periods in the region, polar bears are subject to either fasting on land until the ice reforms or swimming for ice-flows to find seals. With dramatic reduction in the size of ice-flows over the past few years, polar bears are finding it increasingly difficult to swim for food. The example of this 9-day swim is the most extreme recorded for the species. ”We have observed other long-distance swimming events. I don’t believe any of them have been as long in time and distance as what we observed with her,” George M. Durner, a USGS zoologist, said. The Obama administration has designated a 187,000 square miles of Alaska as a protection zone for the endangered polar bears but US District Judge Emmet G. Sulivan has ruled that the species must be in “imminent” danger of extinction before being given the status of endangered. The court battle between conservationist groups and oil and gas companies over this issue continues in February. If polar bears are declared endangered then the US will have to reduce its carbon emissions to protect the species.
Filming for LMV’s documentary on the effects of plastics on the marine environment and human health begins in March with the LMV team flying to the USA. As well as numerous interviews (e.g.: Dr. Curtis Ebbesmeyer, Professor Frederick vom Saal, Captain Charles Moore), the team will be attending the 5th International Marine Debris Conference in Honolulu, hosted by the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) and the USA’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The conference aims to establish the Honolulu Commitment, an agreement on how to tackle the problems of human waste in the world’s oceans. While in the Pacific, the crew will also document that state of Hawaii’s beaches (and the scale of plastic pollution found on them) as well as the effects of the Great Pacific Garbage Dump on the islands’ wildlife (see here and below for camera footage of a very sad phenomenon affecting local bird populations by Chris Jordan).
www.nytimes.com 24th January 2011
Anyone visiting the website of the ‘Waters Advocacy Coalition‘ would be forgiven for believing the group was another environmental organisation trying to protect North America’s waterways, such is the impression given by the banner “Protect the Clean Water Act” accompanied by images of crystal clear streams and rivers (see above). So when the Coalition protested on the subject of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rescinding a Clean Water Act Permit for the Mingo Logan Coal Company in West Virginia it may come as a surprise to some that they were in support of the coal company. In a rebuke of the EPA ruling, the Coalition wrote to President Obama’s Council on Environmental Quality stating that the decision “has no legal foundation, is not warranted on the facts and will chill investments and job creation across America. The implications could be staggering, reaching all areas of the U.S. economy including but not limited to the agriculture, home building, mining, transportation and energy sectors.” As it turns out, the Coalition is actually a lobbying body for some of the USA’s ‘largest industrial and agricultural concerns’ including ‘the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the National Industrial Sand Association and the National Mining Association.’
e360.yale.edu 14th January 2011
Quoted from source:
‘The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has revoked a permit for a large mountaintop removal mining project in West Virginia, saying it would use “destructive and unsustainable mining practices” that would threaten the health and water supplies of the surrounding Appalachian communities. While the EPA said mining projects elsewhere in the state could continue, agency officials rescinded a permit under the Clean Water Act for Arch Coal’s proposed 2,300-acre Spruce Mine operation in Logan County, a controversial project that would dump mining debris into more than 7 miles of rivers. The decision could affect dozens of other mountaintop removal mining projects, in which companies blast off the tops of mountains to get at the coal seams below. Across Appalachia, the practice has buried more than 2,000 miles of streams and damaged more than a million acres of forest. Peter Silva, EPA’s assistant administrator for water, said, “We have a responsibility to protect water quality and safeguard the people who rely on clean water.”’
To watch e360′s documentary on the subject click here.
www.latimes.com 8th January 2011
Quoted from source:
‘Julia “Judy” Bonds, a West Virginia environmental activist who garnered national attention for her homespun opposition to mountaintop removal coal mining, has died, the environmental group Coal River Mountain Watch said. She was 58 and had cancer. Bonds, executive director of Coal River Mountain Watch, died Monday evening at a hospital in Charleston, W.Va. A descendant of generations of West Virginia coal miners, Bonds became known as a passionate and fearless opponent of mountaintop removal mining that she blamed for devastating the environment and the lives of coalfield residents. The mining practice involves blasting and scraping away mountaintops to expose multiple layers of coal. In 2003, Bonds won the $150,000 Goldman Environmental Prize for her activism. The international prize is awarded annually to one person each from Africa, Asia, Europe, island nations and North, South and Central America.’
www.nytimes.com 6th January 2011
The new Republican governor of New Mexico, Susana Martinez, has scrapped two environmental laws claiming they were ‘burdensome for industry and harmful to the state’s economy’. One of these laws required 3% annual cuts to state greenhouse gas emissions and the other aimed to regulate the discharge of waste from dairies in the southern part of the state. Governor Martinez, who received thousands of dollars from oil and gas interests, does not believe that ‘science has clearly established a link between climate change and human activity’. She also dismissed most of the members of the state’s Environmental Improvement Board claiming: “Unfortunately, the majority of E.I.B. members have made it clear that they are more interested in advancing political ideology than implementing common-sense policies that balance economic growth with responsible stewardship.” Some have claimed that her actions, both in scrapping the laws and firing the EIB members, is illegal. Governor Martinez’s actions goes against the current trend in southwestern US states as governors in California and Arizona are firmly backing cleaner sources of energy.
www.guardian.co.uk 3rd January 2011
The most comprehensive study to have ever been carried out on bee populations in the USA has come to a finish, and with startling results. The research team from the University of Illinois found that the ‘the abundance of four common species of bumblebees in the US has dropped by 96% in just the past few decades’. The reduced size of the bee populations means inbreeding and disease are likely to effect the remaining insects. Bees are essential for the pollination of 90% of the world’s commercial plants including coffee, soya beans, and cotton. Bumblebees are important in the US particularly for the pollination of tomato and berry plants ‘thanks to their large body size, long tongues, and high-frequency buzzing, which helps release pollen from flowers’. No single reason has been attributed to the bee decline although new diseases, changing habitats, and the increased use of fertilisers have all been cited.
www.boston.com 16th December 2010
Quoted from source:
‘The Department of Justice filed a civil lawsuit yesterday in New Orleans against the oil giant BP and eight other companies over the enormous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Although the complaint does not specify the damages that the administration is seeking, the fines and penalties under the laws that are cited in the complaint could reach into the tens of billions of dollars. “We will not hesitate to take whatever steps are necessary to hold accountable those who are responsible for this spill,’’ Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said at a news conference. Holder said the department is making progress on a criminal investigation of the companies involved in the spill. The Deepwater Horizon rig burned and sank in April, killing 11 workers and leaving the well it was drilling to gush out of control on the gulf floor. Millions of gallons of crude oil spilled before the well was capped in July. The government is alleging violations of federal regulations concerning the operation and safety of oil rigs, including the failure to take necessary precautions in securing the rig before the explosion and the failure to use the safest drilling technology. The nine defendants include BP and its partners in owning the well, Anadarko Petroleum and MOEX Offshore 2007, as well as BP’s operating partners, including Transocean, owner of the rig, and insurers. The 27-page complaint was filed in US District Court in New Orleans, where thousands of spill lawsuits have been consolidated.’
www.latimes.com 16th December 2010
Quoted from source:
‘The President’s Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues says that no potential threat to the ecosystem is imminent. And noting the potential benefits of such research, the panel says such threats can be best countered through debate and education. The not-so-distant prospect that scientists will be able to create new forms of life in the lab raises ethical and safety challenges, but progress in the field should not be hobbled by premature restrictions, a panel appointed by Barack Obama said in a report to be released Thursday. The President’s Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues acknowledged in its first report to the Obama White House that “do-it-yourselfers” — individual scientists and small labs working without institutional backing or restraints — will inevitably get into the synthetic-life business, and that without strict controls, synthesized forms of life might escape from labs and threaten to upend the ecosystem. But the commission suggested that such nightmare scenarios were on the far horizon and might be averted most effectively through active public debate and education. The potential benefits of such work — new vaccines and medicines and biological alternatives to fossil fuels, for instance — suggest that the government should be quick to support the research and very deliberate about imposing limits, the panel wrote. They also advised that government agencies should draw in scientists and hobbyists and make them part of the process rather than treat them as a renegade force.’
www.bbc.co.uk 14th December 2010
The Pacific Pink Salmon has suffered significant decline in recent years. It was found in 2002 that there was a 97% decline in fish returning to spawn. Panicking slightly, the fishing industry and conservationists alike cast around for the cause. It was then claimed that farm-bred Atlantic salmon carrying sea-lice parasites had contaminated pink salmon populations. This theory was reinforced when another study in 2001 90% of juvenile pink salmon (Oncorhyncus gorbuscha) in the Broughton Archipelago of Western Canada. However, a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has stated that separating farmed fish from wild species would play no part in increasing the survival chances of the pink salmon. The study found that only 8% of pink salmon that left the spawning areas died of sea lice, which is not enough to destabilise a population. The paper reads: “Death caused by sea lice exposure replaced death caused by other causes, resulting in no net change in generational survival.” There were also no evidence of the bleeding gills that affects Atlantic salmon when infested with the lice in the pink salmon. There were signs of reddening but the authors of the study stated that this “is commonly associated with stressful environmental conditions or bacterial and viral infections.”
A study by the Washington Toxics Coalition has revealed that 95% of dollar bills tested positive for the dangerous chemical Bisphenol A. BPA is an endocrine disruptor that mimics naturally produced hormones such as estrogen and is known to cause severe physical side-effects in lab-mice. Furthermore, the BPA contaminating US currency differs to that found in plastics and aluminum cans because it is not chemically bound to the money, making it very easy to rub off in pockets and on fingers. “Our findings demonstrate that BPA cannot be avoided, even by the most conscious consumer,” said Erika Schreder, Staff Scientist at the Washington Toxics Coalition and lead author of the report. “This unregulated use of large amounts of BPA is having unintended consequences, including exposure to people when we touch receipts.” Over 90% of Americans tested for BPA are positive. The main source of the chemical is believed to be food as a very large proportion of it is wrapped in BPA containing packaging. Professor Frederick Vom Saal of the Endocrine Disruptors Group at the University of Missouri-Colombia has performed tests that links the chemical to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, immune dysfunction, damage to every part of the reproductive system, ovarian cysts, breast cancer, low sperm counts, prostate cancer, urethra abnormalities, ADHD, and social behaviour disruption. There is currently no regulatory body in the USA that oversees the use of BPA.
www.bbc.co.uk 11th December 2010
A compromise has been reached at the climate summit in Cancun. A draft paper drawn up by the hosts of the summit, Mexico, found unexpected support among the countries that have caused the biggest problems in finding a successor to the Kyoto treaty, namely China, Japan, and the USA. As the spokespeople of each of these three stood up to endorse the paper, which states that carbon reductions are necessary and also establishes a fund to help poorer countries in their fight against the effects of global warming, other delegates cheered. The Green Climate Fund will spend $100 billion each year on developing low-carbon technologies in poorer nations as well as investing in infrastructure related to tackling the effects of climate change, such as flooding. Also in the paper are parameters to tackle deforestation. However, the deal is a lot less than many hoped for. Although a step up from the disastrous Copenhagen summit last year, it is unsure whether the Cancun deal will be legally binding. Tara Rao, senior policy adviser with WWF, is optimistic however. “There’s enough in it that we can work towards next year’s meeting in South Africa to get a legally binding agreement there,” she said. Bolivia was the most outspoken critic of the deal, with the President reportedly stating the agreement was ‘ecocide and genocide’. The Bolivian delegate has claimed that the deal will still amount to a rise in global temperatures of over 4 degrees C.
www.latimes.com 10th December 2010
The US government’s hopes of creating a nationwide railway network have been dented following Ohio and Wisconsin’s attempts to spend state funding on the project elsewhere. The Republican governors of the two states turned down the $1.2 billion dollars to develop a high-speed railway system and instead asked the government whether the money could be spent on other proposals. Their request was denied by US Secretary of Transport Ray LaHood and the funds have been promised to remaining 11 states which still plan to go ahead with the project. California received the largest portion of this distribution bringing the total pledged for its bullet train network to $5.5 billion (of which $3.18 billion is from the national government). Work on the line is expected to begin in 2012 with the California state rail board approving the construction of the first segment between Corcoran and Borden. Trains should be able to travel up to 220mph along a 520 mile route when completed. Some observers have suggested that government funds may not make it to California though as a growing body of politicians, all Republicans, want to rein back government spending to tackle the $1.3 trillion federal deficit.
www.nytimes.com 7th December 2010
Quoted from source:
‘Federal inspectors charged with ensuring the safety of offshore oil drilling are overwhelmed, insufficiently trained, work without official procedures for some of their most crucial decisions and sometimes have insufficient support from their supervisors for resisting industry influence, according to a report released Tuesday by the Interior Department’s inspector general. The report, which examined the practices of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, echoes the findings of an earlier investigation by the department released in September, and is based on much of the same raw material. But the new report offers additional recommendations and provides new details of the problems in the agency, which until last spring was called the Minerals Management Service. The Obama administration reorganized the agency after the April 20 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig that killed 11 workers and resulted in the worst offshore oil spill in the nation’s history. Mary L. Kendall, the inspector general, acknowledged that some of the report’s findings might be outdated. But Michael R. Bromwich, the head of the offshore drilling safety agency, said in a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar that the new report was filled with “serious deficiencies and errors.” The report, Mr. Bromwich said, failed to take account of recent reforms in the agency, which he said was “curious, especially given that this information is readily available.”’
www.boston.com 6th December 2010
Quoted from source:
‘The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a global warming pollution case filed by environmental groups and eight states, including Vermont, Rhode Island and Connecticut. In a 2004 lawsuit, the groups claimed American Electric Power Co. and four other electric power corporations that at the time were the U.S.’s five largest emitters of greenhouse gases were contributing to a public nuisance: Global warming. A New York federal district court ruled against the groups in 2005 but an appeals court overturned that decision last year. Oral arguments are expected in the spring according to Matthew Pawa, a Massachusetts lawyer representing some of the environmental groups.’
www.wsj.com 2nd December 2010
Major retailers in the US including Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Target Corp. are fighting against a new federal law that forces them to reveal whether store-goods contain minerals from war-torn central Africa. Metals such as gold, tin, tantalum, and tungsten from countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo have been blamed of prolonging conflict by giving rebel groups an accessible source of income. The requirement, which is part of the Dodd-Frank financial law passed in July this year, forces the retailers who use such minerals to prove that no part of their acquisition benefits rebel groups. Those companies that verify the source of their materials can bear the label “DRC Conflict Free”. Those that don’t may continue selling but face public embarrassment. Major retailers, such as Wal-Mart, sell private-label goods made by other companies so the retailer claims it should be exempt from the law as it has no direct control over the manufacturing process. Other companies have complained that sometimes it is very difficult to ascertain where raw materials come from due to the high number of intermediaries involved. Others have stated that it is also difficult to know who controls transit routes in central Africa as territory is in constant flux. The law, which had bipartisan support in Congress, is an attempt by the US government to bring corporate pressure on to rebel finances. Critics have long claimed that the 15 year conflict has received little attention from the West, resulting in $185 million being raised in 2008 alone for rebel groups selling the four minerals to western markets.
e360.yale.edu 6th December 2010
Quoted from source:
‘Accelerated wildfires across wide swaths of the Alaskan interior caused by rising temperatures have released more carbon into the atmosphere over the last decade than was stored in the tundra and boreal forests, according to a new study. Over the last 10 years, the area burned by wildfires in interior Alaska has doubled to 18.5 million hectares — 71,000 square miles — largely because of an increased number of late-summer fires, which consume plant litter, moss, and organic matter in the soil that have accumulated over thousands of years, researchers say. It’s a trend that could portend “a runaway climate change scenario,” in which warming temperatures cause increasingly intense fires that release more and more carbon into the atmosphere, said Merritt Turetsky, a professor at the University of Guelph in Canada and lead author of the study, published in the journal Nature Geoscience. Researchers say the study supports a growing body of evidence that northern ecosystems are bearing the brunt of climate change, and that warming temperatures are turning these carbon sinks into large-scale sources of carbon.’
e360.yale.edu 6th December 2010
Quoted from source:
‘A coal-based sealant sprayed on pavement for parking lots, playgrounds, and driveways is the leading contributor of a toxic pollutant found in U.S. lakes and reservoirs, according to a new study. Samples of sediments collected from the bottom of lakes and reservoirs in 40 urban areas by the U.S. Geological Survey revealed high levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), a probable carcinogen that is also toxic to fish and other marine life. On average, about half of the PAHs came from coal-tar sealants. Vehicles account for about one-fourth of the remaining pollutants, and coal combustion contributes about 20 percent, according to the study, published in the journal Science of the Total Environment. Coal-tar pavement sealants — derived from the waste produced in the coking of steel — have been banned in several U.S. cities, including Austin, Texas, and Washington, D.C. An alternate asphalt-based sealant contains levels of PAHs that are 1,000 times lower than coal-tar sealants.’
www.nationalgeographic.com 3rd December 2010
A scientific study in the United States has revealed that captive white ibises exposed to mercury take up “surprising” homosexual behavior. Not only do the male birds pick other males as mates but they also live together as a couple by building a nest and staying as a couple for a month, despite the absence of eggs. White ibises are among the most common birds in Florida’s Everglades and are exposed to mercury through their diet of crustaceans and other small invertebrates. These creatures are contaminated through mercury seepage into the Glades from nearby industrial processes such as waste incineration. The study consisted of 160 ibises who were fed a diet containing low, medium, or high levels of mercury based on a realistic range of exposures found in the wild. As well as an increase in the number of homosexual couples, mercury also affected the heterosexual pairs who produced 35% fewer babies than the control group. Although the exact reason mercury has an effect on sexuality is not completely understood, the metal is a known endocrine disruptor, a substance that mimics or blocks the production of natural estrogen. In the case of the tested male ibises, they produced more estrogen than testosterone. Peter Frederick, a wildlife ecologist at the University of Florida in Gainesville who joint led the study, has insisted that the study ‘has no ramifications for humans’.
www.latimes.com 4th December 2010
Researchers at the Cancer Institute of Harvard Medical School have made the first step towards reversing the signs of aging in lab-mice. Scientists have known for some time that signs of aging in humans are associated with telomeres, repetitive strands of DNA that protect the ends of chromosomes. As time progresses and cells divide, these telomeres get worn down causing aging in the form of graying hair, infertility, and organ failure. The scientists at Harvard genetically engineered mice that would not produce telomerase, the enzyme that repairs telomeres, and sure enough the rodents aged prematurely. Their hair grayed, spleens atrophied, and brains and testes shrunk. Their skin was also plagued with dermatitis and their sense of smell dulled. Telomerase was then administered and, sure enough, the mice showed significant signs of recovery: their hair got its sheen back and their nose recovered its sense of smell. Sperm began to be produced at normal levels again. The researchers insist that any successes with mice are from being replicated in humans. For one, aging in people is due to a number of factors other than the degradation of telomeres. Also, telomerase is a tricky enzyme that has to be administered intermittently. Immortal cancer cells owe their existence to the substance.
www.boston.com 26th November 2010
The non-profit organisation Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, one of the foremost opposition groups to the USA’s first offshore windfarm, has fallen into debt. After raising, on average, $3.6 million a year from 2003-5 to campaign against the renewable energy farm and its owners Cape Wind. However, by last year funding was down to $1.4 million following the groups defeat in Washington and this year, according to December tax returns, the Alliance was $500,000 in the red. The Alliance president Audra Parker claims that the lack of funding is due to both the length of the fight (almost a decade now) and the recession. Ms. Parker has insisted that the Alliance will continue to protest against the windfarm, which, they claim, will destroy the Nantucket Sound in Massachusetts and cost more for the tax-payer. In reality the windfarm will only add less than $2 to the average monthly energy bills on nearby residents but in comparative terms Cape Wind power will double the cost of electricity from fossil fuels. Although the group has around 5,000 members in the Massachusetts area, when funding dipped it relied upon just nine wealthy donors who contributed about $1 million. One of these is William I. Koch, the fossil fuel magnate, who donated $100,000 to cover the cost of the former Alliance president Glenn G. Wattley. Mr Koch also gave $1 million to a lobbying firm to persuade government officials to drop the Cape Wind plans.
e360.yale.edu 1st December 2010
Quoted from source:
‘In a scramble for new sources of natural gas, European energy companies are increasingly turning to hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” a drilling technique that has generated controversy in the U.S. because of potential harmful environmental effects. In Poland, Halliburton has constructed a well for the state-owned Polish Oil and Gas Company that analysts say could yield 1.4 trillion cubic meters of natural gas, and test wells have been built or are planned in the UK, Sweden, and Denmark. Critics say the drilling process — which involves pumping fluids and sand into the ground at high pressure to break up shale rock and release gas — poses a threat to drinking water supplies. New York officials this week approved a temporary ban on fracking until state regulators can establish safety guidelines, and the Obama administration is considering stricter disclosure requirements from drilling companies.’
www.nytimes.com 22nd November 2010
The first Lionfish to be discovered in Florida waters was found in Key Largo, January 2009 and immediately removed by scientists. Today, however, the species is now so widespread that local government is encouraging a series of ‘derbies’ to control their spread. The Lionfish is an aggressive predator capable of decimating fish populations wherever it goes. Specimens analysed off the Florida coast have revealed that the fish are eating commercially important grouper and snapper juveniles as well as adolescent parrotfish, which feed on algae thereby preventing it smothering coral. If the Florida Keys, which relies heavily on commercial fishing and recreational diving, goes the same way as the Bahamas for example, where reefs are covered in Lionfish, then there maybe significant economic consequences to the invasion. The Lionfish is a native to the Indo-Pacific Ocean and the Red Sea and is not known to have any natural predators. Believed to be introduced to US waters by aquarists, the species can produce up to 30,000 eggs in one spawning event and can spawn as often as once every four days. Lad Akins, director of operations with the Reef Environmental Education Foundation, says that this may amount to an annual egg production of 2 million per female. Due to the sheer numbers involved, authorities are unsure as to how to deal with the problem. Local groups are attempting to tackle the problem by running derbies where teams of fishermen kill as many Lionfish as possible for prize money. However, despite their numbers, Lionfish can be elusive. The last derby to take place in Florida, in the Lower Keys area, saw 18 teams take part but only 109 fish killed. Other groups are trying to promote Lionfish as an alternative food.
www.independent.co.uk 27th November 2010
The latest rounds in UN sponsored talks on climate change are set to take start in two days time (29th November) in the holiday resort of Cancun in Mexico. Spectators hope that a viable alternative to the Kyoto Pact will be put into place following last year’s failure at Copenhagen. The summit will be hosted by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. 194 parties are due to attend. The two main objectives are as follows:
1) ACTION BEYOND 2012
- launching a new financial vehicle, unofficially dubbed the Green Fund, to help poor countries cope with the impact of climate change. It could be the main source for aid, promised in Copenhagen, that could reach 100 billion dollars a year by 2020.
- setting financial encouragement to tropical countries so that they preserve their forests rather than cut them down. Logging and land clearance have accounted for between 12 and 25 percent of global emissions annually over the past 15 years.
- encouraging the transfer of clean technology from rich countries to poor economies.
- agreeing ways to measure and monitor countries’ actions, including emissions curbs.
2) FUTURE OF THE KYOTO PROTOCOL
The renewal of greenhouse gas reduction targets. This is difficult due to the lack of support from the USA and the absence of developing economies like Brazil, China, and India. Even the European Union, which saved Kyoto following the USA’s refusal to ratify the treaty in 2001, is doubtful that such as renewal is possible.
www.nationalgeographic.com 19th November 2010
Quoted from source:
‘When the Navy F/A-18 jet called the Green Hornet takes off over the Chesapeake Bay on Earth Day, it will aim to break a barrier that has proven far more durable than the speed of sound. The twin-engine tactical aircraft is prepared on April 22 to make a supersonic flight on biofuel—its tanks filled 50 percent with oil refined from the crushed seeds of the flowering Camelina sativa plant. The test flight at the Naval Air Station at Patuxent River, Maryland will be a milestone in the Navy’s efforts to reduce its reliance on petroleum, and perhaps, in the elusive search for an alternative fuel for aviation. The event is meant to showcase the Pentagon’s efforts to increase use of renewable energy, not only as a climate change initiative but to protect the military from energy price fluctuations and dependence on foreign oil. When President Obama announced his offshore drilling and energy security plan last month at Andrews Air Force Base, he used the Green Hornet as a backdrop. As naval aviation’s biggest fuel consumer, the F/A-18 Super Hornet is a fitting test aircraft. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus has set a that half of naval energy consumption will come from alternative sources by 2020. A “Great Green Fleet,” to sail by 2016, will include nuclear ships, as well as surface combatants with hybrid electric power systems using biofuel and biofuel-powered aircraft. But for now, the Navy is seeking only to certify its first blend of biofuel and petroleum, by showing it can be used for the Super Hornet’s full range of flight operations. That includes demonstrating that the alternative fuel can deliver the power needed to fly faster than the speed of sound (343 meters per second).’
Read more on the US military’s attempts to move away from fossil fuels in LMV’s published editorial ‘The Army of the Sun: the US Military’s Move Away from Fossil Fuels’.
www.latimes.com 20th November 2010
Quoted from source:
‘Forget healthcare reform, cap and trade, deficit reduction. For congressional stalemates, there’s no more evergreen a fight than whether to drill for oil in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Don’t expect it to get resolved next year. With the Republicans taking over the House, a new drilling bill is likely to get slightly more traction than an equally inevitable move to try to lock up the refuge as wilderness. But with the 50th anniversary of the refuge coming up next month, some of the nation’s biggest environmental groups hope to persuade President Obama to play a trump card, and designate the refuge as a national monument. Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) headed a list of 25 senators in a letter backing full permanent protection for the refuge. “By being designated a national monument under the antiquities act, we believe that it would send an additional message to the Congress and to the public about the resource values of this area, and we hope that would help discourage future efforts to legislatively promote drilling in the refuge,” said Robert Dewey, vice president for government relations at the Defenders of Wildlife. But as usual, Alaska’s congressional delegation is forming a mighty wall aimed at holding off any new attempts to impose additional federal controls. The state’s Democratic senator, Mark Begich, downplayed talk of a monument and said new directional drilling technology can allow oil companies to access the petroleum reserves under the refuge from outside, without despoiling the wildlife-rich coastal plain.’
www.guardian.co.uk 19th November 2010
Quoted from source:
‘Since the US embassy in Beijing began tweeting hourly pollution reports last year, smog watchers have been horrified at the frequency of “bad” and “hazardous” readings.But this week, the depth and murkiness of the haze was so appalling that the automated system briefly entered the realm of black comedy with a “crazy bad” analysis of our air. The outlandish description appeared on the @beijingair Twitter account late yesterday when levels of PM2.5 tiny particulate matter surged past 500, about 20 times higher than the guideline issued by the World Health Organisation. The “crazy bad” terminology – which was at odds with the normally sober and scientific language of the Twitter account – appeared to have been a joke embedded in the embassy’s monitoring program and triggered by a reading that was off the normal scale. US officials quickly deleted “crazy bad” and replaced it with the term “beyond index”, but not before the original message was widely retweeted by shocked Beijingers. The wilder wording was probably closer to capturing the danger posed by pollution at these levels, which has been linked to brain damage, bronchial disease and heart attacks. Several residents said “crazy bad” was refreshingly frank, particularly given the reluctance of Chinese officials to disclose real-time pollution data or any measurements of ozone or PM2.5 particulate matter. US embassy spokesman, Richard Buangan, said the “crazy bad” term was a mistake that has been corrected. “It was an inadvertent humorous moment,” he said. “We thought it might blow up in our faces. But looking at the Twitter feed, we are seen as heroes.” Beijing’s air quality monitoring office declined comment. An official said there was insufficient research to explain why the pollution haze has been so murky this week.
www.guardian.co.uk 18th November 2010
Quoted from source:
‘It’s very nearly a wrap for Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose career as governor of California will come sputtering to an end in January with his approval rating in the 20s, the state budget shortfall at $25bn (£16bn), and unemployment at nearly 13%. But, like the action heroes he has so often played, the man they called the governator is already working on a comeback. In what is likely his last performance on a world stage as governor, Schwarzenegger this week launched the R20 climate network, an alliance of regional leaders who have pledged to work together to fight climate change. Schwarzenegger is the “founding father” of the new venture, a self-appointed global champion in the war against climate change.’
To read more about Arnold’s decision in the Guardian, click here.