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Economic Indicators Point Toward Growth in Renewable Energy
June 27, 2011 09:29 PM - Doug Elbinger, Environmental Issues Editor GreeningDetroit.com
While scanning the horizon in sea of mostly grim economic news, I found three gems - - - news reports or economic indicators, if you will, that point to solid and profitable growth in the renewable energy sector of the economy in the near, 3-5 year term. These indicators point toward a shift in the financing, production, consumption and distribution of alternative energy, predicated on advances in technology that will bring the productions costs down to a competitive plateau with conventional fossil fuels. I suspect the time it takes from "innovation in the laboratory" to diffuse into the commercial market place has to be reduced from years to months or less, in order for this to work. When investors like General Electric, Google, and MIT, direct research and investment on this scale - - - it just might tip the balance. 1. The cost benefit ratio of "coal fired" electricity vs "solar" will equalize or fall in favor of solar. In a recent report from Bloomberg news, Mr. Mark M. Little, the global research director for General Electric Co., predicts that solar power may be cheaper than electricity generated by fossil fuels within 3-5 years. A combination of rising energy prices with lower production cost and higher efficiency will make solar cost competitive with conventional coal fired electric generation. General Electric (GE) plans to invest in "advanced" solar panel manufacturing and expects to open a plant in 2013, employing over 400 people and make enough solar panels to power 80,000 homes. If this business plan unfolds as predicted, watch for explosive growth on all fronts the Solar industry.
Biofuels in Europe for Airlines
June 27, 2011 02:24 PM - Andy Soos, ENN
European airlines, biofuel producers and the European Commission signed an agreement on June 22 to produce two million tonnes of biofuel for aviation by 2020 even as debate rages over how green such fuels actually are. Airlines are keen to use biofuels as a way of cutting down on pollution from jet fuel but the use of food crops, such as palm oil, in their production has come under fire for taking land that could be used to grow food to feed people. A report by 10 international agencies including the World Bank and World Trade Organization earlier this month said governments should scrap policies to support biofuels, because they are forcing up global food prices. Almost anything done takes from the left pocket and pots it in the right pocket; food or fuel in this case. Biofuel is a type of fuel which is in some way derived from biomass. The term covers solid biomass, liquid fuels and various biogases. Biofuels are gaining increased public and scientific attention, driven by factors such as oil price spikes, the need for increased energy security, concern over greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels, and government subsidies.
Warm Ocean Under Antarctic Glacier
June 27, 2011 01:14 PM - Andy Soos, ENN
Pine Island Glacier is a large ice stream flowing west-northwest along the south side of the Hudson Mountains into Pine Island Bay, Amundsen Sea, Antarctica. It was mapped by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) from surveys and United States Navy air photos, 1960—66, and named in association with Pine Island Bay. The area drained by Pine Island Glacier comprises about 10% of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Satellite measurements have shown that the Pine Island Glacier Basin has a greater net contribution of ice to the sea than any other ice drainage basin in the world and this has increased due to recent acceleration of the ice stream. An international team of scientists from Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and British Antarctic Survey has discovered that due to an increased volume of warm water reaching the cavity beneath Pine Island Glacier in West Antarctica, it’s melting 50 percent faster than it was 15 years earlier. The glacier is currently sliding into the sea at a rate of 2.5 miles a year, while its ice shelf (the part that floats on the ocean) is melting at about 80 cubic kilometres a year.
June 27, 2011 07:51 AM - Andy Soos, ENN
Vesta is an asteroid that is thought to be a remnant protoplanet with a differentiated interior and a mean diameter of about 530 km. Comprising an estimated 9% of the mass of the entire asteroid belt which lies between Mars and Jupiter. It is the second-most-massive object in the belt after the dwarf planet Ceres. NASA's Dawn spacecraft is on track to begin the first extended visit to a large asteroid. The mission expects to go into orbit around Vesta on July 16 and begin gathering science data in early August. Vesta resides in the main asteroid belt and is thought to be the source of a large number of meteorites that fall to Earth.
Mammary Development/Breast Cancer
June 24, 2011 03:16 PM - Andy Soos, ENN
Breast cancer is cancer originating from breast tissue, most commonly from the inner lining of milk ducts or the lobules that supply the ducts with milk. Factors across the woman life cycle, beginning before birth, influence breast cancer risk. This is known from epidemiologic studies of characteristics self-reported by older women or gleaned from medical records. For example, larger babies have a higher breast cancer risk decades later, while preeclampsia (pregnancy hypertension) is associated with a lower risk in daughters. Earlier puberty increases the risk, and women with fewer or no pregnancies have a higher risk later on. These factors span sensitive periods of breast development, prenatally and during puberty and pregnancy. If environmental chemicals have comparable effects during sensitive developmental periods, identifying these risks could lead to prevention. But epidemiologic data to assess the effects of chemicals in early life are rarely attainable. The primary risk factors for breast cancer are sex, age, lack of childbearing or breastfeeding, higher hormone levels, race, economic status and dietary iodine deficiency. If environmental chemicals have comparable effects during sensitive developmental periods, identifying these risks could lead to prevention. But epidemiologic data to assess the effects of chemicals in early life are rarely attainable. Recent studies are attempting to narrow the environmental effect uncertainties with improved test methods and protocols. Some studies are indicating that effects on mammary gland development and cancer risk factors are not limited to estrogenic endocrine disruptors, but are induced by diverse chemicals including perfluorinated compounds and the herbicide atrazine, in addition to the soy phytoestrogen genistein and synthetic estrogens such as bisphenol A.
The Amazing Lifestyle of the Gyrfalcon
June 24, 2011 10:27 AM - David A Gabel, ENN
The gyrfalcon is a species of falcon which lives on the arctic coasts and islands of North America, Europe, and Asia. It is the largest of all the falcon species. Being well adapted to cold weather, the gyrfalcon has thick plumage and spotted white feathers for blending into the icy background. A recent study from the University of Oxford has uncovered a very unique trait which this species possesses. It is the only known land-based predatory bird to make its home on icebergs floating over the ocean.
A Big Bird Flapping
June 23, 2011 03:49 PM - Andy Soos, ENN
How does a baby bird learn to fly? One anecdote is to push them out of the nest and hope they do not hit the ground. It is also similar o how a human baby learns to walk. The muscles have to grow strong enough to do the job. It can take months for their partially developed wings and flight muscles to become airworthy, and by then the youngsters are almost fully grown. However, long before their maiden flight, chicks probably put their developing wings to use, flapping as they run up steep branches. Brandon Jackson from the University of Montana, USA, explains that Ken Dial and his son first noticed this strange behavior when filming chukar chicks negotiating obstacles: instead of flying over, the birds ran up over the object flapping their wings. When Dial discussed this behavior with local ranchers and hunters, some described adult chukars flapping to run up cliffs. So why do adult birds flap and run up steep objects when they are perfectly capable of flying? Jackson, Dial and their colleague Bret Tobalske wondered whether pigeons might use 'flap running' to save energy, so they measured the amount of power generated by the flight muscles of flap running and flying birds and found that flap running birds use less than 10% of the energy of birds flying at the same angle.
Jail Time for Clean Air Act Violator
June 23, 2011 09:32 AM - David A Gabel, ENN
The Clean Air Act is an environmental law but it is a law nonetheless. Breaking it will subject the violator to punishment by the courts. Yesterday, a West Des Moines, Iowa resident was sentenced by a US District Judge to 41 months of prison, followed by two years of supervised release, 300 hours of community service, a $12,500 fine, and an addition $200 fine for each victim of his crime. The charge against him was conspiracy to violate Clean Air Act asbestos work practice standards during the renovation over 10-story building in Des Moines.
June 22, 2011 12:26 PM - Andy Soos, ENN
We all complain about the weather. It is a great topic of conversation. Weather is the state of the atmosphere, to the degree that it is hot or cold, wet or dry, calm or stormy, clear or cloudy. Most weather phenomena occur in the troposphere, just below the stratosphere. Weather is part of what life is about. However, everything has its price. New research indicates that routine weather events such as rain and cooler-than-average days can add up to an annual economic impact of as much as $485 billion in the United States based on 2011 data. Rain, snow, and hot or cold temperatures can all have economic impacts. The study, led by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), found that finance, manufacturing, agriculture, and every other sector of the economy is sensitive to changes in the weather. The impacts can be felt in every state.
June 21, 2011 02:23 PM - Andy Soos, ENN
The summer solstice occurs exactly when the Earth's and the moon's[clarification needed] axial tilt is most inclined towards the sun, at its maximum of 23° 26'. The summer solstice occurs in June in the Northern Hemisphere north of the Tropic of Cancer (23°26'N) and in December in the Southern Hemisphere south of the Tropic of Capricorn (23°26'S. The Sun reaches its highest position in the sky on the day of the summer solstice. For the northern hemisphere this year solstice will occur June 21 at 5.16 PM UTC. This is also the longest day. For millenia it has been celebrated as a key event of the seasons.