Business & Innovation
12 Dec 2012:
Large Cellulosic Biorefinery
Will Convert Corn Stalks into Biofuel
Chemical giant DuPont has started construction of a large-scale cellulosic ethanol biorefinery in Iowa capable of converting corn stalks and leaves into
Corn stover in bales
a biofuel that could be used in place of fossil fuels at some power plants. The $200 million facility, which will be among the first and largest of its kind in the world
, will produce more than 30 million gallons of ethanol annually
using so-called corn stover, the remains of corn plants after the harvest, DuPont says. The company plans to collect the stover from more than 500 local farmers within a 30-mile radius, and the plant could be operational as soon as mid-2014. DuPont plans to license the production system internationally and work on designs that will expand this aspect of the biofuel industry.
Interview: Designing Green Cities
To Meet 21st Century Challenges
Landscape architect Martha Schwartz is a passionate believer in the role that landscape can play in urban sustainability. Great landscape design, she says, can
Martha Schwartz Partners
moderate extreme heat, recycle water, reduce energy use, lower carbon emissions, and attract people to urban areas. Following these principles, her London-based firm, Martha Schwartz Partners
, has designed such projects as Dublin’s Grand Canal Square; Exchange Square, in Manchester, England; and Abu Dhabi’s Corniche beachfront area. In an interview with Yale Environment 360
, Schwartz, a professor at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, talks about the importance of incorporating cultural values in urban design, explains why the design of streets and parking lots is as important as the design of parks, and discusses why the U.S. lags behind many other nations in the greening of its cities. Read the interview
21 Nov 2012:
Solar-Equipped ‘iShacks’ Offer
Cheap, Sustainable Housing in South Africa
South African researchers say they have developed a low-cost and sustainable housing alternative to the flimsy corrugated iron shacks found in the country’s growing settlements. Developed by an interdisciplinary
team at Stellenbosch University’s TsamaHUB center
, the so-called iShack is insulated with inexpensive, natural materials such as mud and cardboard boxes and has a sloped roof for harvesting rainwater. A photovoltaic cell on the roof provides the energy for motion-sensitive exterior lighting, interior lighting, and a cellphone charger. So far, a mother and her three children are living in a prototype iShack
in Ekanini, an informal settlement of 8,000 residents in Cape Town that lacks access to electricity and an adequate water supply. Project developers also taught six residents in the community how to install and maintain the solar power system in hopes they can use the skills for future entrepreneurial ventures. Researchers look to apply the iShack’s design to upgrade settlements in other regions.
Five Questions for Bill McKibben:
On the Road for ‘Do the Math’ Tour
Bill McKibben — author, climate activist, and founder of 350.org — is in the midst of a 21-city “Do the Math” tour to build grassroots support for combating climate change.
The target of the campaign is the fossil fuel industry, and McKibben and 350.org are calling for universities, colleges, and governments to divest themselves of oil and coal company assets. Yale Environment 360
caught up with McKibben by email in Boston recently and asked him five questions about his tour.
15 Nov 2012:
GM to Make 500,000 Vehicles
With Electric Technology Within 5 Years
General Motors aims to build as many as 500,000 vehicles that utilize some sort of electric technology
by 2017. Speaking to reporters this week, GM’s product development chief, Mary Barra, said the company’s fleet of cleaner vehicles will include the plug-in Chevrolet Volt; the all-electric Spark EV, which will go on sale in some markets next year; and cars that utilize the eAssist technologies, which can improve efficiency in some vehicles by as much as 25 percent. A half-million vehicles would represent about 5 percent of the company’s global sales last year; GM expects to sell 50,000 vehicles equipped with electric technologies this year. While the market for electric cars is sluggish, Barra said plug-in vehicles remain central to the company’s strategy
. “We have every intention of maintaining our leadership position in plug-in vehicles,” she said. Like all automakers, GM will need to offer more fuel-efficient vehicles to meet stricter U.S. auto emissions standards that will be in place in 2025.
14 Nov 2012:
Algal Biofuel Blend
Reaches Market at California Gas Stations
A U.S. company this week began pumping a mix of an algae-based biofuel and gasoline at gas stations in California
, a pilot project the company hopes will be a first step in providing a large-scale alternative to fossil fuels.
The fuel, known as Biodiesel B20, contains 80 percent petroleum and 20 percent algae grown by San Francisco-based Solazyme. The fuel is produced in a fermentation process at Solazyme’s Illinois plant that combines sugar with an organism company officials will not identify. According to the company, the new fuel blend produces 30 percent fewer particulates, 20 percent less carbon monoxide, and 10 percent fewer hydrocarbons than other biodiesel fuels. So far, the fuel is being sold for diesel vehicles at four gas stations in the Bay Area for $4.25 per gallon, which is also the average price right now for diesel fuel in California. But Propel Fuels, which is providing the infrastructure for the fuel delivery, hopes to make the fuel available at hundreds of California stations, said Matt Horton, Propel’s CEO.
08 Nov 2012:
Molecular ‘Trap Door’ Method
May Reduce Costs of Carbon Capture
Australian scientists have developed a method for trapping carbon dioxide
that they say could ultimately reduce the costs of separating and storing carbon from fossil fuel emissions. Writing in the Journal of the American Chemical Society
, researchers from the University of Melbourne say they have produced an ultra-fine sieve that separates only carbon dioxide from a gas stream, acting as a sort of “molecular trapdoor.” According to the study, the new method — which can be used in power plants or during natural gas extraction — uses a chemical called a chabazite that allows carbon dioxide to pass through but blocks other chemicals. While many such existing carbon capture technologies use similar “sieves,” they often require additional stages of refining and extraction before yielding a pure form of CO2. “Because [the new process] allows only carbon dioxide molecules to be captured, it will reduce the cost and energy required for separating carbon dioxide,” said Paul Webley, a professor at the University of Melbourne and one of the study’s authors.
07 Nov 2012:
Green Ballot Initiatives
Rejected by Voters in California, Michigan
Two closely watched state ballot initiatives endorsed by environmental groups went down to defeat on Tuesday, as voters in California rejected a proposal that would have required the labeling of all genetically modified crops and Michigan voters soundly defeated a measure that would have required stricter renewable standards on electric utilities. In California, Prop. 37 was backed by the organic food industry and consumer groups but faced rising opposition in recent weeks in the form of a $44 million advertising campaign funded largely by the biotechnology sector, including agribusiness giant Monsanto. While advocates said they have the right to know what’s in the their food, opponents warned voters that the initiative would cost families hundreds of dollars annually in higher grocery costs. According to the Los Angeles Times
, the measure was losing, 57 percent to 42 percent, with most precincts reporting. In Michigan, a ballot initiative that would have required utilities to generate 25 percent of their power
from green sources by 2025 also triggered a major ad blitz by opponents, including the state’s utilities.
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.
23 Oct 2012:
French Panel Rejects Study
That Linked GM Corn to Cancer in Rats
An independent state panel in France has rejected the findings
of a recent controversial study that linked genetically modified corn to cancer in rats, but the panel did recommend long-term research into the risks of genetically engineered food. In the report, requested by the French government, the Higher Biotechnologies Council (HCB) found “no causal relationship” between an increase in tumors in rodents and the consumption of GM corn or the widely used herbicide, Roundup, both of which are produced by the biotech giant Monsanto. The study, published in September
in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology
, had claimed that the consumption of Roundup-tolerant GM corn increased the incidence of cancer in rats. On the contrary, the HCB researchers said
, “the data are insufficient to establish scientifically a causal link... or to support the conclusions or pathways suggested by the authors.” To address public concerns, however, the panel did recommend that a “long-term, independent, transparent study, with adversarial views, be undertaken under government auspices.”
12 Oct 2012:
New Disney Paper Policy
Promises Responsible Use and Sourcing
The Walt Disney Co., the world’s largest publisher of children’s books, has announced a dramatic shift in how the company will use and source paper
, vowing to minimize the amount of paper it uses overall and eliminate its purchase of irresponsibly harvested timber products. In an announcement, the multinational media company, which had been under pressure from forest activists, said it would increase its use of recycled paper and paper products certified by the Forest Stewardship Council and will avoid products coming from what it called “high conservation-value” and “high carbon-value” forests. In addition, executives say they will work with the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) and other groups to identify "regions with poor forest management and high rates of deforestation,” including Indonesia, where rampant deforestation for pulp and paper products is decimating rainforests. The policy shift comes two years after RAN launched a campaign against Disney, citing evidence that its publishing arm, which produces 50 million books and 30 million magazines annually, was using hardwood pulp likely sourced in Indonesia rainforests
11 Oct 2012:
Norway Proposes CO2 Tax Hike
To Increase Climate Mitigation Funds
Norway has announced plans to nearly double its carbon tax
on the nation’s offshore petroleum sector to create a £1 billion fund to help combat the effects of climate change, including in developing nations. In a draft budget released this week, government officials proposed a climate program that would increase the tax on oil companies from about £24 per ton of carbon dioxide to £45 (Nkr410) per ton. The plan would allocate about £1 billion (Nkr10 billion) to promote green energy initiatives, reduce carbon emissions, and improve food security in developing countries. In addition, Norway would pledge about £44 million to help developing nations preserve tropical forests, which play a critical role in storing carbon. Norway has previously helped fund efforts to reduce deforestation in Brazil, Indonesia, and Ethiopia. These new plans come as the oil-rich nation looks to expand its oil exploration into the Barents Sea between Norway and Russia.
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.
04 Oct 2012:
New Cleanup Method Offers
Major Solution to Oil Spills, Study Claims
Scientists have developed a superabsorbent material they say offers a cost-effective way to remove, recover and clean up large oil spills
. Writing in the journal Energy & Fuels
, Pennsylvania State University
researchers Xuepei Yuan and T. C. Mike Chung describe a polymer material that they say can absorb 40 times its own weight in oil, transforming spilled material into a solid, oil-containing gel that is strong enough to be collected and transported to oil refineries for reprocessing. While many of the methods typically used to clean up oil spills — including booms, skimmers, burning, and the use of dispersants — waste most of the spilled oil and leave behind significant levels of environmental pollution, the scientists say their so-called polyolefin oil-SAP technology offers a potentially “complete solution” to dealing with oil spills. They say the material does not absorb water, is buoyant, and is relatively inexpensive.
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.
02 Oct 2012:
Genetically Modified Cow
Reportedly Lacks Allergy-Causing Protein
Scientists in New Zealand have produced a genetically modified cow whose milk lacks a protein that causes allergic reactions in people
, particularly children. Researchers at the government-owned AgResearch
Genetically modified Daisy
lab used a cloning procedure — the same one used to create Dolly the Sheep in 1996 — to produce a cow named Daisy that lacks a whey protein known as BLG, or beta-lactoglobulin protein, which provokes an allergic reaction in two to three percent of infants. Stefan Wagner, a scientist on the cloning team, said he and his colleagues now plan to investigate whether the BLG-free milk causes allergic reactions and whether the BLG-free cows will produce less milk than normal cows. Meanwhile, some scientists say that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is moving too slowly
to decide whether to allow the production and sale of food from genetically engineered animals. These include a genetically altered salmon that grows much faster than regular salmon, and so-called enviropigs engineered to digest plant phosphorous more efficiently, which could cut feed costs and reduce levels of polluting phosphorous in manure.
28 Sep 2012:
Biodegradable Electronics Could
Lessen Environmental Impact of Devices
A team of U.S. scientists says it has developed a class of biodegradable electronics technology that could be utilized for a wide range of products — from consumer devices to medical implants — and that ultimately would dissolve completely
, leaving no environmental
University of Illinois and Tufts University
An integrated circuit dissolves in water.
impacts. Drawing on techniques that enable the production of systems using ultrathin sheets of silicon that dissolve in liquids, the so-called “transient electronics” technology has been used experimentally to make transistors, diodes, temperature sensors, and solar cells that degrade completely in even tiny amounts of water, the researchers say. The devices are encapsulated in silk, enabling manufacturers to alter the rate of dissolution based on the structure of the silk used. According to John Rogers, a professor at the University of Illinois and leader of the research team, the technology could be used for a myriad of electronic devices that end up in landfills; for environmental monitoring equipment, such as sensors used in oil spills; and for medical implants needed for short-term diagnostic or therapeutic functions.
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.
18 Sep 2012:
Explosive Urban Growth
To Put Major Strain on Biodiversity
The world’s urban areas will expand by more than 1.2 million square kilometers by 2030
, nearly tripling the area of urban development that existed worldwide in 2000, according to a new study. That development surge, researchers say, will coincide with construction of new roads, buildings, and energy and water systems, causing considerable habitat loss in critical biodiversity hotspots — including many regions that were relatively undisturbed by development only a decade ago. Writing in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
, researchers from Yale, Texas A&M, and Boston University predicted that nearly half of that urban expansion will occur in Asia, particularly in China and India. Urban growth will occur fastest in Africa, they say, with a projected six-fold increase in land development compared with 2000. “Given the long life and near irreversibility of infrastructure investments, it will be critical for current urbanization-related policies to consider their lasting impacts,” said Karen Seto, an associate professor at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and lead author of the study.
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.
04 Sep 2012:
A Quarter of Liberian Land
Ceded to Logging Companies in Two Years
One quarter of Liberia’s total land area has been sold to logging companies over the last two years
, a development that threatens widespread devastation in West Africa’s most heavily forested nation, a new investigation has found. According to a report
by Global Witness, Save My Future Foundation and the Sustainable Development Institute, logging companies have used what the investigators call a legal loophole in the nation’s forest laws to secretly parcel out dozens of logging contracts covering 26,000 square kilometers. Created to allow landowners to cut trees on their land, these so-called Private Use Permits contain no sustainability requirements and have left 40 percent of the nation’s forests, including nearly half of Liberia’s most pristine forests, open to clearing, the report says. Under the terms of the contracts, the companies are required to pay only 1 percent of the timber’s value to the Liberian government. In response, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has suspended the head of the nation’s Forestry Development Authority and opened an investigation.
30 Aug 2012:
Better Use of Fertilizer, Water
Can Feed Growing Population, Study Says
A new study suggests that the the world can meet the surging demand for food in the coming decades without rampant deforestation if farmers make better use of fertilizer and water resources
. In an analysis of management practices and yield data for 17 major crops worldwide, researchers from McGill University in Montreal and the University of Minnesota estimated that yields for most crops can be increased 45 to 70 percent on lands already used for agriculture through more efficient fertilizer application and irrigation. Writing in the journal Nature
, the scientists found that the deployment of best-practice farming could boost global yields of corn, wheat, and rice by 64 percent, 71 percent, and 47 percent
, respectively. In some parts of the world, including the U.S., China, and Western Europe, the study found that far more fertilizer is used than necessary, with much of it ultimately washing into waterways. Through more efficient use of that fertilizer, nutrients could be made available for use in Eastern Europe and Western Africa without adversely affecting communities in the U.S. and China.