Enn Original News

The Coming Global Phosphate Crisis
July 18, 2011 09:43 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

Phosphate is a mineral that is used in fertilizer to boost agricultural productivity. It is greatly responsible for the "green" revolution and the increased output of farms around the world. Unfortunately, the world will be coming to a point, if certain trends hold, where we will run out of phosphate. The mineral is widely used, but utterly unrecycled. Like fossil fuels, phosphate may come to a point where it is too costly to use, and world hunger may be the consequence.

The Most Efficient Energy Star
July 15, 2011 10:15 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

Energy Star is an international standard for energy efficient consumer products originated in the United States of America. It was first created as a United States government program during the early 1990s, but Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Taiwan and the European Union have also adopted the program. Devices carrying the Energy Star logo, such as computer products and peripherals, kitchen appliances, buildings and other products, generally use 20%—30% less energy than required by federal standards. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Department of Energy announced July 14 for the first time products recognized as the most energy-efficient in their categories among those that have earned the Energy Star label. This pilot program is part of Energy Star’s overall commitment to protect people’s health and the environment by encouraging energy efficiency. The Most Efficient initiative also continues Energy Star’s work to provide consumers with the best efficiency information so they can make investments that will lower their energy bills and environmental impact. The new designation of Most Efficient aims to provide all manufacturers with an incentive for greater product energy efficiency while providing consumers new information about the products that comprise the top tier in the categories.

The Significant Role of Forests in Regulating Global Climate
July 15, 2011 08:56 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

A new study published in the journal, Science, has quantified the forests' role in regulating carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in the atmosphere. Because plants absorb CO2 as part of their metabolism, the greater the forest, the more CO2 is removed, and the impact of global climate change is decreased. The study found that the world's established forests remove 8.8 billion tons of CO2 from the atmosphere per year. This equates to nearly one third of all annual fossil fuel emissions from humans.

Chemicals Found in Household Products Linked to Thyroid Hormone Disruption
July 14, 2011 09:41 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

Phthalates and Bisphenol A (BPA) are chemicals that are commonly found in plastics and household products such as solvents and cleaners. Being common in places that people live and eat, they will eventually make their way into the body. A new large study out of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor has linked the abundance of these chemicals in the human body with thyroid function. Disrupting the thyroid's proper functioning can affect many important body systems such as reproduction, metabolism, and energy levels.

Garden of Cosmic Speculation
July 14, 2011 08:27 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

The Garden of Cosmic Speculation is at Portrack House, near Dumfries in South West Scotland. It is a private garden created by Charles Jencks. The garden is inspired by science and mathematics, with sculptures and landscaping on these themes, such as Black Holes and Fractals. The garden is not abundant with plants, but sets mathematical formulae and scientific phenomenae in a setting which elegantly combines natural features and artificial symmetry and curves. It is probably unique among gardens, and contrasts nicely with the historical and philosophical themes of the less spectacular but equally thoughtful Little Sparta. Little Sparta is a garden at Dunsyre in the Pentland Hills near Edinburgh, created by artist and poet Ian Hamilton Finlay and his wife Sue Finlay. This Dumfries garden, known as The Garden of Cosmic Speculation, is not your everyday example of landscaping; instead it is based on mathematics and science mixed with nature and man-made lakes. Built in 1989, it has been called by some the most important garden in the 21st century.

The Right Tool for a Fish
July 13, 2011 01:56 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

What constitutes a tool use? For humans we always seem to be using tools like hammers, pencils etc. The tool use behavior has been observed in dolphins, elephants, otters, birds, primates and octopuses. While exploring Australia's Great Barrier Reef, professional diver Scott Gardner heard an odd cracking sound and swam over to investigate. What he found was a footlong blackspot tuskfish holding a clam in its mouth and whacking it against a rock. Soon the shell gave way, and the fish gobbled up the bivalve, spat out the shell fragments, and swam off. Tool use? Considering the limits of a fish to manipulate objects it may well be. Many creatures without hands have managed to use other body parts to their advantage, notably the mouth.

Pesticide Pathways
July 13, 2011 10:49 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

When soil moisture levels increase, pesticide losses to the atmosphere through volatilization also rise. In one long-term field study, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists found that herbicide volatilization consistently resulted in herbicide losses that exceed losses from field runoff. Agricultural Research Service (ARS) soil scientist Timothy Gish and ARS micrometeorologist John Prueger led the investigation, which looked at the field dynamics of atrazine and metolachlor, two herbicides commonly used in corn production. Both herbicides are known to contaminate surface and ground water, which was primarily thought to occur through surface runoff.

As Midwest Landscape Changes, Insecticide Use Increases
July 13, 2011 09:19 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

The Midwest United States of America is home to some of the most fertile soil in the world. Its mild climate and ample rainfall make it the agricultural heart of America. Over the years, cropland has expanded so much that natural ecosystems are becoming rarer. The continued retreat of natural habitat and growth of farms have greatly simplified the landscape. From the air, this section of the country looks like a never-ending grid. A new study from the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) concluded that the simplification of the landscape has led to an increased abundance of crop pests and therefore higher use of insecticides.

Japanese Automakers Aim to Bolster Energy Security at Home
July 12, 2011 09:33 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

Electric vehicle drivers, the wise and uber-eco-conscious members of society, can claim to not have any tailpipe emissions. However, their emissions still exist in the form of a smoke stack from the local power plant. To have a pure green vehicle, the source of power must be sustainable and renewable. Nissan, creator of the all-electric Leaf, has developed a solar charging system that stores its power in the Leaf's lithium-ion battery. The automaker has installed 488 solar panels at its Japan headquarters, enough to power 1,800 Leafs a year.

Vapor Recovery
July 12, 2011 07:58 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

Vapor recovery is the process of recovering the vapors of gasoline or other fuels, so that they do not escape into the atmosphere. This is often done (or required by law) at filling stations, in order to reduce pollution. zThe negative pressure created in the (underground) tank by the withdrawal is usually used to pull in the vapors. They are drawn-in through holes in the side of the nozzle and travel through special hoses which have a return path. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is issuing a proposal under the Clean Air Act that would waive requirements for systems used at gas station pumps to capture potentially harmful gasoline vapors while refueling cars. The proposal is part of the Obama Administration’s initiative to review outdated and redundant rules and ensure that regulations are beneficial without being unnecessarily burdensome to American businesses. Beginning in 2013, states that meet the new criteria would have the option to do away with vapor recovery systems at the pump since an estimated 70 percent of all vehicles will be equipped by then with on-board systems that capture these vapors. The result of the proposal would be the continued protection of air quality and public health while potentially saving affected gas stations more than $3,000 annually.

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