26 Oct 2012:
Digital Atlas App Documents
Human Effects on the Natural World
A team of UK-based developers has created an interactive app that enables users to explore a trove of global data on several critical issues, including how human populations are impacting the natural world and
Mapping world trends: Carbon emissions
the production and consumption of energy resources. Released this month, Atlas by Collins
uses a series of 3D globes to illustrate seven topics, including energy, the environment, politics, and population. The digital atlas contains data from every nation and more than 200,000 geographical sites, including cities, landmarks, and natural features. Users can compare trends in population, pollution, and forest loss, and trace the shifting dynamics of the distribution of energy resources. The app allows viewers to swipe across the planet’s surface and click key points to zoom to street-level detail using Apple Maps and Google Maps.
17 Oct 2012:
Chinese Report Acknowledges
Nuclear Safety Concerns at Reactors
In a new report, the Chinese government has laid out a plan to upgrade the security at its nuclear power reactors
over the next decade, suggesting that the country may be ready to resume a planned expansion of
Feng Li/Getty Images
Inspector at a Zhejiang construction site
its nuclear sector halted in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster. The Ministry of Environmental Protection report indicates that roughly 80 billion yuan ($12.75 billion) will be required by 2015 to upgrade radioactive-contamination controls at the nation’s plants to international standards. Making the challenge more complicated, the report said, is the variety of reactors in place across China and “multiple standards of safety.” “The current [nuclear] safety situation isn’t optimistic,” the report said. The report recommended the phasing out of older nuclear reactors and an increased emphasis on research and development into nuclear safety and radioactive waste handling. While not specifying any timeline, the report suggested the nation is getting closer to restarting the approval process for new plants, which was suspended in 2011 following the nuclear crisis in Japan.
11 Oct 2012:
Group Calls for Swift Growth
Of Carbon Capture-and-Storage Facilities
An industrial group says that to avoid “dangerous climate change” an additional 55 facilities that capture carbon from power plants and store it underground must be built by 2020
. The group, the Global CCS Institute, said that only one new carbon-capture-and-storage (CCS) plant was built in the past year, bringing the current number to 75. The institute acknowledged that the goal of building 130 CCS plants by 2020 was unlikely, but argued that the technology is a proven method of reducing carbon dioxide emissions
and vital to future strategies to slow global warming. The institute said that just eight of the 75 plants now in operation have achieved a greater reduction in CO2 emissions that all other greenhouse gas reduction efforts instituted in the UK and Australia. CCS Institute President Brad Page said that governments should treat CCS technology as they do other low-carbon initiatives, like solar and wind power, which often receive subsidies and other government aid designed to encourage the growth of renewable energy.
10 Oct 2012:
Software Maps CO2 Emissions
Down to Building and Street Levels
A team of U.S. researchers has developed a software system that they say documents carbon dioxide emissions in urban areas down to the level of individual buildings or street segments
. Using publicly available
Click to enlarge
Bedrich Benes and Michel Abdul-Massih
Annual carbon emissions, Indianapolis
data on local pollution, traffic counts, and building uses — as well as models of building-by-building energy consumption — the researchers from Arizona State and Purdue universities were able to create three-dimensional maps detailing carbon emissions. The researchers hope the software will provide insights into urban CO2 sources and help guide public policy on climate change and sustainable energy use. “Cities have had little information with which to guide reductions in greenhouse gas emissions — and you can’t reduce what you can’t measure,” said Kevin Gurney, an assistant professor at Arizona State University. So far, the so-called Hestia software has been used to produce visualizations for the city of Indianapolis, but the group is also developing maps for Los Angeles and Phoenix.
10 Oct 2012:
U.S. Supreme Court Refuses
Chevron Challenge of Ecuador Damages
The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear Chevron Corp.’s challenge
of an $18.2 billion judgment issued by an Ecuadorian court over large-scale damages caused by oil drilling in the Amazon. The Supreme Court decision is the latest development in a long legal battle that led to a ruling last year by an Ecuadorean court that Chevron had to pay the damages for massive oil dumping by Texaco, which Chevron acquired in 2001. Chevron was challenging a ruling by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York that would have effectively opened the way for worldwide enforcement of the judgment against Chevron. An Ecuadorean court found that an oil consortium run by Texaco dumped billions of gallons of oil and toxic sludge in the Amazon rainforest
from 1964 through 1992, badly polluting water supplies and causing health problems among some of the 30,000 plaintiffs in the Lago Ario region. Chevron vowed to continue to fight the Ecuadorean court’s decision, which it called “fraudulent” and tainted by judicial misconduct. Chevron contends that the decision is not enforceable under New York law.
09 Oct 2012:
Facing Opposition at Home,
UK Looks to Build Wind Project in Ireland
Faced with growing opposition to land-based wind turbines in England, UK officials are looking to build hundreds of wind farms in Ireland
that would generate electricity exclusively for the UK. Government officials say the £8 billion proposal, which includes the construction of more than 700 turbines in a rural area west of Dublin, would provide more than 3 gigawatts of electricity to the UK and help the nation meet its green energy goals. Officials say the project already has the approval of the government of Ireland, where there is less public resistance to wind turbines. More than 1,100 turbines are now operating in Ireland, most of which are located at 176 land-based wind farms. Costs for the proposed project are estimated at about €8 billion, about two-thirds of which would be for construction of the wind farms, with the other third used to install two large underwater cables beneath the Irish Sea. Officials say the project could be operational by 2018.
03 Oct 2012:
Major Policy Shifts Needed
To Maintain Decline in U.S. CO2 Emissions
A decline in U.S. carbon emissions in recent years is unlikely to continue over the long term
unless there is a significant shift in how the nation produces and uses its energy, according to a new analysis. While several factors have triggered a 9 percent decline in annual carbon emissions in the U.S. since 2005 — including a decrease in the use of coal-fired electricity as a result of the natural gas boom — the most significant factor has been the economic recession, according to the group Climate Central. As the economy recovers, any reductions in greenhouse gas emissions will likely be offset by increased incomes that drive an greater demand for vehicles, electrical appliances, and other consumer products.
calculates that U.S. carbon emissions can be reduced 38 percent below 2005 levels by 2035 if several hypothetical changes occur. These include the number of miles driven remaining at today’s level and average vehicles achieving fuel efficiency of 55 miles-per-gallon; significant gains being made in the efficiency of energy-consuming equipment; and natural gas continuing to reduce the share of coal-burning technologies.
26 Sep 2012:
European Solar Capacity
Grew in 2011 Despite Subsidy Cuts
Installed solar capacity continued to grow across Europe in 2011
despite a decline in subsidies for green energy continent-wide, according to a new report. Roughly 18.5 gigawatts of new solar photovoltaic energy capacity were installed in the European Union during 2011, about two-thirds of the world’s increase in PV capacity, according to the Joint Research Center of the European Commission
. The EU’s overall PV capacity increased to 52 gigawatts, supplying about 2 percent of the continent's electricity needs, according to the report. Although European companies remain world leaders in the development and production of photovoltaic technology, the report projects that they will suffer in future years in the face of increased competition, particularly from Chinese companies. And while Europe remained the leading region worldwide in terms of renewable energy investment last year, the rate of investment grew faster in Asia, particularly in India, Japan, and Indonesia, the report said.
26 Sep 2012:
Approved for California Roadways
California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a law that will allow self-driving vehicles on the state’s public roadways
by next year. While fully automated vehicle technology may be years away, the California law establishes safety and performance regulations for testing these cars next year — provided that the driver is ready to take control of the vehicle if needed. Several companies, including Google, are developing self-driving cars
that utilize a series of sensors — including GPS, cameras, lasers, and radar — as well as data from other vehicles to learn what is around the vehicle and guide its navigation. Developers say the innovative technology has the potential to improve safety, reduce congestion, and improve fuel efficiency. “We’re looking at science fiction becoming tomorrow’s reality,” said Brown, who drove to the signing ceremony at Google’s Mountain View headquarters in the passenger seat of a vehicle that steered itself.
25 Sep 2012:
Sluggish Electric Car Market
Forces Discounts and Cuts by GM, Toyota
With electric vehicles still struggling to find a foothold in the mainstream market, General Motors has offered major discounts on its Chevrolet Volt to move cars off sales lots, and Toyota has scrapped plans for widespread sales of its new all-electric minicar. While
Courtesy of GM
A Chevrolet Volt charges
GM reported a record-setting month for Volt sales in August, selling 2,800 cars, an Associated Press report
found the increase was due largely to discounts
of nearly $10,000, or about 25 percent off the $40,000 sticker price, including low-interest financing and cash discounts. While those sales indicate consumers will buy electric vehicles if prices are low enough, the fact that dealerships had to offer such steep discounts suggests the technology still has a long way to go before entering the consumer mainstream and becoming profitable for carmakers. Two years after Toyota announced plans to sell several thousand of its all-electric iQ minicar, the company this week said it will scale back those goals
. “The current capabilities of electric vehicles do not meet society’s needs, whether it may be the distance the cars can run, or the costs, or how it takes a long time to charge,” Takeshi Uchiyamada, Toyota's vice chairman, told reporters.
19 Sep 2012:
Fuel Consumption in New Cars
Can Be Halved by 2030, Report Says
With advanced technologies and innovative government policies, fuel consumption in new vehicles can be cut in half by 2030
, saving billions of dollars in fuel costs worldwide and significantly reducing CO2 emissions, a new report by the Paris-based International Energy Agency says. According to the report
, many of the technologies that could significantly improve fuel efficiency over the next two decades are already commercially available but are not widely used. For these technologies to penetrate markets globally, the report says, governments will have to introduce stronger policies, including tougher fuel economy standards and financial incentives. The report notes that strong fuel efficiency standards have been adopted in some major markets, including the U.S., the European Union, and China, but that most of the world’s emerging markets lag far behind. The report also recommends increased research, development, and demonstration of emerging technologies, including waste heat recovery devices.
Video: Debating the Complex
Impacts of Natural Gas Fracking
At a recent panel discussion at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, a group of experts tackled the controversial drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and questions about its impacts on the environment, human health, and the U.S.’s energy future. During the discussion, which can be viewed here
, former Shell Oil president John Hofmeister said the gas made accessible by fracking is more than a “bridge fuel.” Natural gas, he said, is “a highway to the future, and yes, a highway to a clean, more sustainable future.” But environmental activist Bill McKibben countered that the fracking boom is stunting the U.S.’s emerging green energy sector and does nothing to stem climate change. “Fracked gas is not a bridge into the future,” he said, “but a rickety pier out further into the lake of hydrocarbons.” Watch the video
18 Sep 2012:
San Francisco Plan Would Give
Consumers Option of 100% Green Power
City officials in San Francisco, Calif. are considering a $19.5 million program that would give consumers the option of buying 100-percent renewable power
at a higher cost. The so-called CleanPowerSF plan, which would be done in partnership with Shell Energy North America, would also invest about $2 million into the exploration of local green energy generation possibilities. If approved, city officials say, the program would slash carbon emissions during the first year by nearly 10 times the amount already achieved by the city’s green energy initiatives. According to the proposal, which is subject to a vote by the city’s Board of Supervisors, the program would increase utility bills for average customers by about $9 per month. About half of the city’s residents would automatically be enrolled in the program, but would have the chance to opt out at no charge within five months, city officials say. Neighboring Marin County has already initiated a similar program with Shell that allows customers the option of choosing renewable power.
14 Sep 2012:
Japanese Set Goal
To Phase Out Nuclear Power by 2040
The Japanese government says it will seek to phase out all nuclear power plants by 2040
, although officials suggested that the target remains flexible. The new energy strategy, which places a 40-year lifespan on nuclear reactors and limits construction of new plants, would continue a national shift away from nuclear power following last year’s disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power station. Earlier this year Japan suspended operations at the last of its 50 nuclear power stations
over public safety concerns. Most of the plants remain off-line. In announcing the new plan, Motohisa Furukawa, Japan’s minister of state for national policy, left open the possibility that five reactors that will be younger than 40 at the end of the 2030s will be allowed to remain in operation. In addition, Furukawa indicated that the central government would ultimately bow to a newly formed nuclear panel over such policy questions, the New York Times
reported. Nuclear power provided nearly 30 percent of the nation’s electricity before the 2011 disaster, and many have questioned whether the country can meet its power needs without a nuclear sector.
12 Sep 2012:
U.S. Big-Box Retail Stores
Lead Surge in Solar Power Installations
A growing number of major U.S. companies, led by the nation’s largest big-box retailers, are installing rooftop solar power systems to help cut energy costs and increase profits, a new report says
. According to the report, released by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and the Vote Solar Initiative, more than 3,600 non-residential systems were activated
in the U.S. during the first half of 2012, led by retail giants such as Walmart, Costco, and Kohl’s department stores, all of which have sharply increased their solar power installations in recent months. Among the top 20 U.S. companies
by solar capacity, almost half are big-box retailers, according to the report. “Five or six years ago, you probably would have read about a pledge in an annual report about what they’re doing for the environment,” Rhone Resch, SEIA’s chief executive, told the New York Times
. “Now what you’re seeing is it’s a smart investment that they’re making for their shareholders, and this is a standard business practice.”
10 Sep 2012:
Wind Resources Could Meet
Global Energy Demands, Study Says
The earth contains enough wind energy to meet all of humanity’s power needs
if future technologies are able to tap into high-altitude winds, a new study says. Using models to quantify wind energy potential, researchers at
the Carnegie Institution for Science and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory calculated that more than 400 terrawatts of power could be extracted from the planet’s surface winds — which could be accessed with land- and ocean-based turbines — and more than 1,800 terrawatts could be generated by high-altitude winds using technologies that combine turbines and kites. Currently human civilization uses about 18 terrawatts of power. The researchers’ calculations, described in the journal Nature Climate Change
, are based on geophysical limits, and do not take into account technical or economic limitations. The study said the effects of extracting enough wind power to meet current global demand would be minimal as long as turbines are scattered worldwide.
07 Sep 2012:
LED Bulbs Widening Gap
In Energy Efficiency, Report Says
While today’s light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs are slightly better for the environment than compact fluorescent lamps, the energy efficiency gap will widen over the next five years
as the technology and manufacturing methods of LEDs improve, according to a new report. In an analysis of the impacts of the light technologies in 15 categories — including the energy and resources required to manufacture, operate, and dispose of the bulbs — researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory found that CFLs caused slightly more environmental harm than existing LED technologies in all but one of the areas studied. The one exception, they said, was hazardous waste generation because existing LEDs utilize a component, called a heat sink, which requires mining, refining, and processing of the aluminum. Improved efficiencies in emerging LED technologies, however, will reduce the amount of heat produced and, in turn, the size of heat sink required. As a result, they say, LED bulbs are expected by 2017 to have 50 percent less environmental impact than today’s bulbs and 70 percent less than existing CFLs.
05 Sep 2012:
Major Chinese City
Restricts the Number of New Cars
Government officials in Guangzhou, China’s third-largest city, have enacted measures to limit the number of new cars on city streets
, a policy some analysts say reflects a broader effort by Chinese cities to protect public health and well-being in the face of worsening highway congestion. In Guangzhou, a city of 15 million people and a center for auto manufacturing, officials last week introduced license plate auctions and lotteries, a strategy that is expected to cut the number of cars by half, according to The New York Times.
While the restrictions will have short-term economic impacts, government officials say they could also help reduce air and water pollution, cut long-term healthcare costs, and alleviate the city’s notorious traffic jams. “From the government’s point of view, we give up some growth, but to achieve better health for all citizens, it is definitely worth it,” said Chen Haotian, the vice director of Guangzhou’s top planning agency. Guangzhou’s efforts come as other major Chinese cities are requiring cleaner gasoline and diesel fuels, closing dirty factories, and removing older, more polluting cars from roads.
31 Aug 2012:
EU Ban on Incandescent
Bulbs Goes into Effect on September 1
The incandescent light bulb, in use for more than a century, will be officially banned across the European Union on September 1.
Over the past three years, the
EU has been phasing out 60-watt and 100-watt incandescent bulbs, and on Saturday retailers will no longer be allowed to sell 40-watt and 25-watt bulbs. Incandescent bulbs will be replaced with compact fluorescent lights, halogen bulbs, and LED, or light-emitting diode, lights. The move is expected to save 39 terawatt-hours of electricity across the EU annually by 2020. Some consumers have complained about the quality and expense of the new light bulbs, but lighting industry executives say that prices are coming down steadily and the quality of light from the new bulbs is good. “The phase-out has ben very smooth,” said Peter Hunt, joint chief executive of the UK’s Lighting Industry association. “Concerns about poor performance of replacement bulbs have been proved wrong.”
29 Aug 2012:
India Approves $4 Billion Plan
To Add 6 Million Green Vehicles by 2020
The government of India has approved a 230-billion rupee strategy ($4.13 billion) to spur increased production of electric and hybrid vehicles
over the next eight years, setting a target of 6 million green vehicles by 2020. The new plan, designed to reduce the nation’s reliance on fossil fuels and cut carbon emissions, would attempt to close the gap between the costs of producing green vehicles in India and what consumers can afford to pay. The country’s nascent electric and hybrid car sector slowed dramatically earlier this year when the government removed subsidies of up to 100,000 rupees per vehicle, Reuters reports. According to sources, the new plan would likely include cash subsidies for consumers, increased funding for research and development, and the creation of a charging network, sources said. While specific plans remain to be worked out, S. Sundareshan, the secretary of India’s Heavy Industries ministry, said the government would provide 130 to 140 billion rupees, while private corporations would cover the rest.
28 Aug 2012:
Germany May Need to Slow
Shift to Green Energy, Official Says
Germany’s environment minister said Tuesday that the country might have to slow its shift to renewable energy
to quell concerns about rising consumer costs. A year after the government decided to phase out nuclear power
following Japan’s Fukushima disaster, Germany has indeed been able to increase renewable energy generation, with solar and wind incentives helping the country produce more than 25 percent of its power from cleaner sources. But that rapid growth is causing higher costs for consumers and placing an increased strain on the energy grid, Environment Minister Peter Altmaier told the Financial Times Deutschland
. “These are costs that can be avoided with good planning,” Altmaier said. While a senior Social Democrat called a slower shift to renewable energy “unacceptable,” members of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s administration are seeking legislation that would reduce the burden on consumers. On Monday, the energy group Vattenfall reported that Germany’s current green energy targets would likely require an investment of 150 billion euros
by 2020, causing a 30-percent increase in electricity costs.
23 Aug 2012:
U.S. Solar Panel Maker to
Build Solar Farms in Energy-Hungry India
First Solar Inc., the U.S.-based solar panel manufacturer, plans to expand its role in the global energy industry by developing solar power farms in India
, where an emerging industrial sector is looking to
First Solar Inc.
shore up energy security in the aftermath of record blackouts. The company aims to secure 20 percent of India’s photovoltaic sales by expanding beyond its role as a solar panel supplier and building large solar arrays, Sujoy Ghosh, First Solar’s new India head, told Bloomberg News. According to Ghosh, First Solar will sell electricity at below-market prices directly to private businessess looking to lock in their own power supplies in the event of electricity shortfalls. India, which last month endured blackouts that left half the nation’s 1.2 billion people without power, has a 30-gigawatt backup power market comprised of factories and businesses that currently switch to diesel generators when power fails.
22 Aug 2012:
Solar Shingles Made from
Common Metals Offer Cheaper Energy Option
U.S. scientists say that emerging photovoltaic technologies will enable the production of solar shingles made from abundantly available elements
rather than rare-earth metals, an innovation that would make solar
energy cheaper and more sustainable. Speaking at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society, a team of researchers described advances in solar cells made with abundant metals, such as copper and zinc. While the market already offers solar shingles that convert the sun’s energy into electricity, producers typically must use elements that are scarce and expensive, such as indium and gallium. According to Harry A. Atwater, a physicist at the California Institute of Technology, recent tests suggest that materials like zinc phosphide and copper oxide could be capable of producing electricity at prices competitive with coal-fired power plants within two decades. With China accounting for more than 90 percent of the world’s rare-earth supplies, companies and nations are racing to find new sources of rare earth minerals, which are used in everything from solar panels to smart phones.
20 Aug 2012:
German Shift from Nuclear
Triggers an Increase in Coal Burning
The German government’s decision to phase out all of the nation’s nuclear power plants following the 2011 Fukushima disaster has led to an increase in coal-burning
within Europe’s largest economy. Coal consumption in Germany has grown by 4.9 percent since Chancellor Angela Merkel announced plans to shift away from nuclear power over the next decade, according to a Bloomberg News report. While German leaders intended the new policy to strengthen the nation’s reliance on renewable energy
, Germany’s largest utilities have built coal plants instead of cleaner-burning natural gas projects because coal plants are cheaper. The collapse of the European Union's carbon permit costs also means that there is little penalty for burning coal. “Angela Merkel’s policy has created an incentive structure which has the effect of partially replacing nuclear with coal, the dirtiest fuel that’s responsible for much of the growth in the world’s greenhouse-gas emissions since 1990,” Dieter Helm, an energy policy professor at the University of Oxford told Bloomberg News
17 Aug 2012:
TransCanada Begins Building
Southern Leg of Keystone Pipeline in Texas
The Canadian company, TransCanada, has begun construction on the U.S. leg of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline
, installing segments in east Texas even as the fate of the pipeline’s northern leg remains in question. Company officials confirmed that work began Aug. 9 on the section of the pipeline that will run from Oklahoma to Texas, just weeks after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approved the final construction permit. TransCanada, which ultimately hopes to build a pipeline to carry tar sands oil from Alberta to refineries in Texas, has agreed to relocate the northern section of the pipeline after the Obama administration, citing possible threats to Nebraska’s ecologically sensitive Sand Hills region, rejected a permit for the entire project. If U.S. officials approve the revised northern section of the pipeline, construction could begin in early 2013, a company spokesman said. Pipeline opponents have already launched protests
at construction sites in Texas, and say they will stage future demonstrations in an effort to block the pipeline.
16 Aug 2012:
Large Utah Tar Sands Mine
A Threat to Water Supplies, Groups Say
Two environmental organizations are fighting a Canadian company’s plan to mine a massive reserve of oil sands in eastern Utah, saying the project would tax water supplies in what is already the U.S.’s second-driest state
. In what would be the U.S.'s first large-scale oil sands mining operation, Calgary-based U.S. Oil Sands Inc. has already excavated a two-acre test mine at site called PR Spring and ultimately hopes to establish a sprawling, 6,000-acre mine as early as 2014. According to the Utah Geological Survey, about 25 billion barrels of bitumen are buried on state and federal land in this region — enough to meet the nation’s oil needs for more than three years. But according to a report by Inside Climate News
, it remains unclear whether there will be enough groundwater to support the industry long-term — not to mention the water needs of municipalities and private industries nearby. Two groups, Living Rivers and the Western Resource Advocates, are appealing U.S. Oil Sands’ mining permit, arguing that the state of Utah ignored the threat to groundwater supplies. According to a letter from the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining, the mine is expected to use “116 gallons of water per minute on a 24-hour basis.”
15 Aug 2012:
Belo Monte Dam Halted By
Brazilian Judge Over Lack of Consultation
A Brazilian judge has ordered a suspension of the controversial Belo Monte dam project, saying that local indigenous people who will be affected by the massive hydroelectric project were not sufficiently consulted
Illustration of the Belo Monte proposal
during the environmental assessment process. In a ruling issued Tuesday, Judge Souza Prudente of the Federal Tribunal of Brazil’s Amazon region found that no consultations were held with local communities
before Congress approved what would be the world’s third-largest dam project. The $16 billion project, which is expected to produce 11,000 megawatts of energy, would flood 260 square miles of rainforest in Brazil’s Para state and displace more than 20,000 people
who depend on free-flowing rivers for their livelihoods. “Legislators can only give the go-ahead if the indigenous communities agree with the project,” Prudente wrote. The developer of the project, Norte Energia, will be fined $250,000 per day
if construction on the project continues. The company says it will appeal the decision.
Watch an e360 video report
14 Aug 2012:
Radiation from Fukushima
Caused Butterfly Mutations, Study Says
Radioactive materials emitted during the Fukushima disaster caused physical mutations and genetic damage to butterfly populations living near the nuclear plant, a
University of the Ryukyus, Okinawa
new study says. In a series of tests, Japanese scientists found that butterflies collected from the Fukushima area about two months after the 2011 accident were more likely to have leg, antennae, and wing shape mutations
than those found elsewhere. According to their findings, published in the journal Scientific Reports
, butterflies found in areas with higher levels of radiation developed much smaller wings and eye irregularities. After breeding these butterflies in a laboratory, researchers found the next generation had numerous abnormalities not seen in the previous generation, including malformed antennae. And adult butterflies collected near Fukushima six months after the initial tests were more than twice as likely to have mutations than those found soon after the accident.
14 Aug 2012:
Interior Department Unveils
Drilling Plan for Alaska Petroleum Reserve
A proposed management plan for the U.S.’s National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska (NPR-A) would allow new drilling on half of the 23 million-acre reserve
while placing the rest of it off-limits to oil and gas exploration. The plan, unveiled by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar
, also would not preclude construction of a pipeline on the reserve. Salazar said the plan, which was praised by environmental groups but criticized by oil industry officials, would strike a balance between the nation’s energy needs and the protection of wildlife and native Alaskan subsistence culture. “This will provide a road map to help facilitate the transition from leasing and cautious exploration to production and smart development,” he told reporters in Anchorage, Alaska
. The reserve, located west of oil fields on Alaska’s North Slope, is the home to a some of the largest caribou populations on the planet and millions of migratory birds from around the world
. The region is also estimated to contain 549 million barrels of recoverable oil and 8.7 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Oil companies have been exploring the the reserve in recent years, but full production was suspended pending the Interior Department’s plan.
10 Aug 2012:
U.S. Wind Energy Capacity
Equal to 11 Nuclear Plants, Group Says
Electricity produced by wind energy in the U.S. now equals the output of 11 nuclear power plants
, according to a new report from the American Wind Energy
Association, a trade organization. As congressional leaders consider the extension of a tax credit for the emerging wind energy sector, the AWEA says that a surge in wind projects since 2008 has pushed the sector past 50,000 megawatts,
enough electricity for 13 million homes — or all the residences in Nevada, Colorado, Wisconsin, Virginia, Alabama, and Connecticut combined. Wind energy advocates say a critical factor in that growth has been the Production Tax Credit, set to expire this year, which allows wind farm operators a credit of 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour of electricity they produce. This week in Iowa, where many farmers receive tens of thousands of dollars annually for keeping wind turbines on their land, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has faced criticism for his opposition to extending the tax credit