Environmental Policy

Greenland's ice cover appears to be sliding into the ocean
April 17, 2012 07:10 AM - Editor, ClickGreen

Like snow sliding off a roof on a sunny day, the Greenland Ice Sheet may be sliding faster into the ocean due to massive releases of meltwater from surface lakes, according to a new study by the University of Colorado Boulder-based Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences. Such lake drainages may affect sea-level rise, with implications for coastal communities, according to the researchers. "This is the first evidence that Greenland's 'supraglacial' lakes have responded to recent increases in surface meltwater production by draining more frequently, as opposed to growing in size," says CIRES research associate William Colgan, who co-led the new study with CU-Boulder computer science doctoral student Yu-Li Liang.

TSCA: E Filing as Opposed to Paper
April 16, 2012 08:19 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced a proposed rule to require electronic reporting for certain information submitted to the agency under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). TSCA is a rule that requires chemicals to be registered and on new chemicals and some old ones there is mandatory reporting of hazards and toxicological tests. The action is an important milestone in the agency’s effort to increase transparency and public access to chemical information. Electronic reporting will increase the speed with which EPA can make information publicly available, increase accuracy, and provide the public with quick and easier access to chemical information.

Tar Sands Update
April 16, 2012 06:52 AM - RP Siegel , Triple Pundit

You might not know this, but Canada has oil reserves of 170 billion barrels, more than Iran and Nigeria combined. This fact is not widely known since much of that oil has been considered "not economically recoverable," lying deep underground in a mixture of bitumen, a thick, tarry substance, sand and water known as oil sands or tar sands. Development of these tar sands, located near the Athabasca River, by Suncor Energy, began in the 1960s but has been conducted at a relatively small scale because of the costs involved. Only recently, with declining supplies and increasing prices have attempts begun to try and ramp up production, especially after PetroChina acquired a 60 percent interest in two major wells in Alberta in 2009. This was followed in 2010 by Sinopec paying $4.65 billion for a 9 percent stake in Syncrude Canada Ltd. Chinese investors find this resource to be attractive, since Canada is considered to be a low political risk when compared with, say, the Middle East. As of 2010, the three biggest of many players were Syncrude Canada, Suncor, and Albian Sands, a joint venture of Chevron, Shell Canada and Marathon Oil. BP also has a substantial stake, with a 75 percent interest in Terre de Grace, which it also operates.

Pesticides in backyards implicated in Bee Colony die off
April 14, 2012 10:02 AM - Brandon Keim, Wired

The controversy over possible links between massive bee die-offs and agricultural pesticides has overshadowed another threat: the use of those same pesticides in backyards and gardens. Neonicotinoid pesticides are ubiquitous in everday consumer plant treatments, and may expose bees to far higher doses than those found on farms, where neonicotinoids used in seed coatings are already considered a major problem by many scientists. "It's amazing how much research is out there on seed treatments, and in a way thats' distracted everyone from what may be a bigger problem," said Mace Vaughan, pollinator program director at the Xerces society, an invertebrate conservation group.

Forests and the Health of the Planet
April 13, 2012 08:24 AM - Richard Matthews, Global Warming is Real

The health of our forests directly impacts the health of the planet. The importance of forests to the Earth’s ecosystems cannot be overstated. Research shows that forest die-offs are on the increase and this troubling trend is being linked to global warming. Heat and water stress associated with climate change are making forests vulnerable to insect attacks, fires and other problems. As reported in an October 2011 New York Times article, millions of acres of forests in the northern and central Rockies are dying. In Colorado, at least 15 percent of that state’s aspen forests are suffering due to a lack of water. The U.S. is not the only country where forests are succumbing to the effects of a warming climate, trees are also being impacted by climate change all around the globe. The evidence for global warming continues to mount with March 2012 being the warmest in recorded history in the U.S. and January to March 2012 being the warmest first quarter on record in the lower 48 states. This is but the most recent data corroborating an increasingly irrefutable body of evidence.

Sunny Forecast for Solar Power
April 13, 2012 07:16 AM - Editor, Sierra Club Green Home

The American solar industry more than doubled in megawatts last year, from 887 megawatts installed in 2010 to 1,855 megawatts installed in 2011. This growth represents enough solar energy to power over 350,000 homes! 2011 also marks the first time the U.S. solar market has topped one gigawatt (1,000 MW) in a single year. Many factors contributed to this growth. The cost of installing solar panels fell 20 percent last year due to lower component costs and improved installation efficiency. Expanded financing options and a shift toward larger systems nationwide also made solar more affordable. In addition the 1603 Treasury Program, which offered rebates for businesses that installed solar panels, ended Dec. 31, 2011. This looming deadline drove developers to commission projects before the end of the year.

Shale Oil Impact in Russia
April 12, 2012 04:23 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

Shale oil, known also as kerogen oil or oil-shale oil, is an unconventional oil produced from oil shale by pyrolysis, hydrogenation, or thermal dissolution. These processes convert the organic matter within the rock (kerogen) into synthetic oil and gas. The resulting oil can be used immediately as a fuel or upgraded to meet refinery feedstock specifications by adding hydrogen and removing impurities such as sulfur and nitrogen. The refined products can be used for the same purposes as those derived from crude oil. The largest known reserves are in the US. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has urged his country's gas industry to rise to the challenge of shale gas as the United States and some European countries forge ahead with developing the controversial energy source. US shale gas production may seriously restructure supply and demand in the global hydrocarbons market, Putin said yesterday in his final address to the Russian Duma before he takes over as president on 7 May.

Sales of Volt and Hybrids Surge in March
April 12, 2012 07:06 AM - Phil Covington, Triple Pundit

March turned out to be a big month for auto sales in the United States. Reuters reported that total vehicle sales were up 13 percent for the month, ending the best quarter in terms of total sales since 2008. The industry sees this as a sign of general economic recovery, but with high average gas prices prevailing at the pumps, hybrid cars and plug-in vehicles enjoyed a strong month, indicating fuel economy matters to many when making new car choices.

Study: Allowing More Salmon to Spawn Creates a Win-Win for Humans and Ecosystems
April 11, 2012 09:58 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

Salmon spend most of their lives in the ocean, but return to their birthplaces in freshwater streams to spawn the next generation. These annual migrations up and down the inland rivers are well known and play a significant role in the ecosystem, particularly in the Pacific Northwest. However, there is a concern that humans are harvesting too many salmon, not allowing enough to return upstream to reproduce. This leaves little for the species which depend on the salmon runs such as grizzly bears. A new research study suggests that more Pacific salmon should be allowed to spawn in coastal streams, which would create a win-win for humans and the natural environment.

Do protected areas for wildlife really work?
April 11, 2012 07:14 AM - Eifion Rees, The Ecologist

Can national parks and marine protected areas safeguard endangered wildlife against the growing pressures of population growth and climate change? Designated a national park in 1778 but safeguarded unofficially since the 13th century, the world's oldest protected area is Mongolia’s sacred Bogd Khan Mountain, overlooking Ulan Bator. The Emperor of Manchur’s 18th-century edict was designed to prevent mortals from desecrating the realms of the divine. Building was restricted, logging and hunting banned.

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