Environmental Policy

Greece's economic problems linked to its coal-based energy policies
July 4, 2015 07:53 AM - Takis Grigoriou / Greenpeace EnergyDesk, The Ecologist

As Greece prepares for its referendum, Takis Grigoriou takes Greece to task for its highly polluting lignite power sector, its ditching of a successful solar program in favour of more coal, the minimal insulation in its buildings that locks in high fuel bills, and Syriza's failure to tackle these issues. The good news? Greece's latest €1.4bn coal project looks like going unfunded.

Instead of phasing out lignite Greece opted to engage in a long battle to preserve the ailing industry while putting an abrupt end to solar energy development by blocking new applications.

Study examines overall carbon cost of fuel from Canadian oil sands
June 28, 2015 06:34 AM - UC Davis via the ECOreport, ECOreport

Gasoline and diesel fuel extracted and refined from Canadian oil sands will release about 20 percent more carbon into the atmosphere over the oil’s lifetime than fuel from conventional crude sources in the Unied States, according to a study by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory; the University of California, Davis; and Stanford University.

The researchers used a life-cycle, or “well-to-wheels,” approach, gathering publicly available data on 27 large Canadian oil sands production facilities. The study, published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, found the additional carbon impact of Canadian oil sands was largely related to the energy required for extraction and refining.

Beijing growing explosively, impacting weather and climate
June 26, 2015 05:12 AM - JPL NASA

A new study by scientists using data from NASA's QuikScat satellite has demonstrated a novel technique to quantify urban growth based on observed changes in physical infrastructure. The researchers used the technique to study the rapid urban growth in Beijing, China, finding that its physical area quadrupled between 2000 and 2009. 

A team led by Mark Jacobson of Stanford University, Palo Alto, California, and Son Nghiem of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, used data from QuikScat to measure the extent of infrastructure changes, such as new buildings and roads, in China's capital. They then quantified how urban growth has changed Beijing's wind patterns and pollution, using a computer model of climate and air quality developed by Jacobson. 

Breeders select trait to conserve drinkable water
June 25, 2015 10:28 AM - Kaine Korzekwa, American Society of Agronomy

Plants need water. People need water. Unfortunately, there’s only so much clean water to go around — and so the effort begins to find a solution.

Luckily for people, some plants are able to make do without perfectly clean water, leaving more good water for drinking. One strategy is to use treated wastewater, containing salt leftover from the cleaning process, to water large areas of turf grass. These areas include athletic fields and golf courses. Golf courses alone use approximately 750 billion gallons of water annually in arid regions.

However, most plants cannot tolerate a lot of salt. As some areas of the United States run low on clean water, plant breeders are trying to breed plants that are more salt tolerant. This would conserve clean water while maintaining healthy turf.

Plant breeders can actually see the individual effect of what each parent plant passes on because the genes add intensity to the trait. These are additive effects. Breeders can more easily select for those features when they observe those differences.

Would you eat Genetically Modified Salmon?
June 24, 2015 12:53 PM - Jessie Rack, NPR

While the debate over whether to label foods containing GMO ingredients plays out across the country, another engineered food has long been waiting to hit grocery stores: genetically modified salmon.

Measuring Climate Change Action
June 23, 2015 07:29 AM - MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change

Reducing global greenhouse gas emissions could have big benefits in the U.S., according to a report released today by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), including thousands of avoided deaths from extreme heat, billions of dollars in saved infrastructure expenses, and prevented destruction of natural resources and ecosystems.

Kansas City goes All-In for EV's
June 6, 2015 08:05 AM - BOB SHETH, Electric Forum, Electric Forum

Even though there is a long way to go before electric vehicles are accepted by all motorists, there is no doubt that the Kansas City Power and Light company is putting Kansas City on the map. The company announced very interesting and very ambitious plans to install 1001 electric vehicle charging stations across the area which it serves. This is certainly a very interesting development at a time when advances in electric vehicle battery technology are hitting the headlines but consumers are still concerned about range anxiety.

Will this move make a difference?

As one executive put it “if you install the charging stations they will come” which just about sums it up. The $20 million “clean charging network” will consist of 1001 charging stations which will be able to charge two cars at the time. Not only will this encourage more electric vehicles in the region but it will also greatly help with charging at busy times of the day. The simple fact is that until somebody actually took the plunge and decided to install electric vehicle charging stations we would always be at the beck and call of electric vehicle battery technology.

Could genetically modified mosquitos prevent mosquito-borne illnesses?
June 4, 2015 02:18 PM - Lisa Palmer, Yale Environment 360

When people think of genetically modified organisms, food crops like GM corn and soybeans usually come to mind. But engineering more complex living things is now possible, and the controversy surrounding genetic modification has now spread to the lowly mosquito, which is being genetically engineered to control mosquito-borne illnesses.

A U.K.-based company, Oxitec, has altered two genes in the Aedes aegypti mosquito so that when modified males breed with wild females, the offspring inherit a lethal gene and die in the larval stage. The state agency that controls mosquitos in the Florida Keys is awaiting approval from the federal government of a trial release of Oxitec’s genetically modified mosquitos to prevent a recurrence of a dengue fever outbreak. But some people in the Keys and elsewhere are up in arms, with more than 155,000 signing a petition opposing the trial of genetically engineered mosquitoes in a small area of 400 households next to Key West. 

EU considering new limitations on diesel engines in non-road machinery
June 3, 2015 03:33 PM - EurActiv

As air pollution spikes in Europe’s cities prompt car-free days and talk of banning diesel cars, it’s easy to forget the other culprits behind the air quality crisis: diesel machines. Known in legislation by the innocuous term ‘non-road mobile machinery’, their air pollutant emission limits are now finally under revision.

The last directive dated back to 1997 and the new rules will set standards for decades to come. Air pollution is causing more than 450,000 premature deaths every year in Europe and a recent Eurobarometer survey confirmed that air pollution is now the biggest environmental concern of European citizens. Efficient regulation of emissions sources is therefore key to mitigating the exposure of citizens to air pollution.

Switzerland Promotes Neighborhood Exchange Boxes
June 1, 2015 08:49 AM - Tex Dworkin, Care2

If someone were to set up a telephone booth sized box on your street filled with unwanted items — such as books, toys and small knick knacks, perhaps — and then topped it off with a “Free” sign, what do you think would happen? If Switzerland is any indication, passersby turned salvagers and recyclers would appear out of nowhere, sifting their way through other people’s unwanted discards, thinking up ways to put their newfound discoveries to good (re)use. Some would even add their own unwanted items to the box. Neighborhood exchange boxes have helped Geneva, Switzerland reuse 32 tons of goods thus far thanks to a program called BOÎTES D’ÉCHANGE ENTRE VOISINS–A box for exchange between neighbors. But can it work in other cities?

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