Environmental Policy

Amazon mega-dam gets final approval
June 2, 2011 08:43 AM - Editor, MONGABAY.COM

Brazilian authorities gave final approval to the controversial Belo Monte dam, reports AFP. The project — which has been widely opposed by human rights groups, environmentalists, and indigenous tribes — will dam the Xingu river, one of the largest tributaries of the Amazon River.

"The Garden of Eden Had Been Turned Into The Ashes of Hell"- Azzam Alwash On The Destruction Of The Marshlands of Iraq
June 1, 2011 01:00 PM - Arwa Aburawa, Green Prophet

The United Nations environmental program described Saddam's destruction of the Mesopotamian Marshlands as the worst engineered environmental disaster of the last century. Thousands of Marsh Arabs were killed, their reed huts were burnt down and water sources were poisoned to drive them out until half a million of Marsh Arabs were displaced either into Iran or North Iraq. Once considered to be the largest wetland ecosystem in the Middle East, the Marshlands shrunk to just 10 percent of their original size.

Photos: Cambodians rally as 'Avatars' to save one of the region's last great rainforests
June 1, 2011 08:40 AM - Jeremy Hance, MONGABAY.COM

Two hundred Cambodians rallied in Phnom Penh last week to protest the widespread destruction of one of Southeast Asia's last intact lowland rainforests, known as Prey Lang. In an effort to gain wider media attention, protestors donned dress and make-up inspired by the James Cameron film, Avatar, which depicts the destruction of a forest and its inhabitants on an alien world. The idea worked as the rally received international attention from Reuters, CNN (i-report), MSNBC, and NPR, among other media outlets. Located between the Mekong and Stung Sen River, nearly half of Prey Lang has never been logged, making it an incredible rarity in Southeast Asia, whose forests, according to Conservation International (CI), are the world's most imperiled.

Germany's plan to shut down its nuclear plants will add 40 million tons of CO2 per year
June 1, 2011 07:10 AM - Nina Chestney and Jackie Cowhig, Reuters, LONDON

Germany's plan to shut all its nuclear power plants by 2022 will add up to 40 million tones of carbon dioxide emissions annually as the country turns to fossil fuels, analysts said on Tuesday. The extra emissions would increase demand for carbon permits under the European Union's trading scheme, thereby adding a little to carbon prices and pollution costs for EU industry. "We will see a pick-up in German coal burn," said Barclays Capital analyst Amrita Sen. "Longer term, they will be using more renewables and gas but this year and next, we should see a lot of support for coal burn." The phase-out is seen as more political than technical as German Chancellor Angela Merkel tries to capture anti-nuclear sentiment in the aftermath of Japan's Fukushima crisis. Environmentalists welcomed the shift, although some demanded a faster phase-out, hoping it would spur a shift to renewable energy which they view as less harmful by avoiding radioactive waste.

Can OnStar Help Chevy Sell the Volt and Utilities Manage the Load?
May 29, 2011 09:29 AM - Matthew Madden , Triple Pundit

Can the combination of electric vehicles and software services return General Motors to relevance? Two decades after the introduction of the EV1, not to mention the subsequent controversy created by its cancelation — well documented by the film that became an underground sensation Who Killed the Electric Car? — the Chevrolet Volt is General Motors' latest entrant into the electric vehicle market. While the Volt may get the bulk of the press, the software services that support the automobile may be the business that allows General Motors to compete in the next generation of automotive innovation. OnStar, a subsidiary of General Motors, has garnered success by providing communications and mobility services, security, remote diagnostics and navigation by subscription to drivers of General Motors’ vehicles. The trend towards software-enabled functionality has been guiding automotive development in recent years but the imminent adoption of electric vehicles necessitates the advancement of this functionality. OnStar, and by extension General Motors, may be well positioned to capitalize on this emerging market.

Atlantic bluefin tuna put on U.S. environmental watchlist
May 28, 2011 07:54 AM - Deborah Zabarenko, Reuters, Environment Correspondent WASHINGTON

The U.S. government put the Atlantic bluefin tuna on an environmental watchlist as a "species of concern" on Friday, and will keep checking for any impact on these fish from the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. At this time, the species is not threatened or endangered and so will not be listed as such under the Endangered Species Act, which would trigger immediate protections, officials at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said in a telephone briefing. Atlantic bluefin tuna spawn in the Gulf of Mexico in the vicinity of last year's BP Deepwater Horizon spill, but so far there is no evidence that the species is being harmed. "While the NOAA team found that presently available information did not support listing, it also recognized the need to continue to monitor the potential long-term effects of the spill on bluefin tuna and the overall Gulf ecosystem," Eric Schwaab, of NOAA's Fisheries Service, told reporters. The time period of the agency's peer-reviewed study did not allow for full consideration of the impact from the oil spill, Schwaab said.

Brazil Forms "Crisis Counsel" in Response to Dramatic Increase in Amazon Deforestation
May 27, 2011 11:09 AM - Thomas Schueneman, Global Warming is Real

Deforestation in the Amazon rainforest of Brazil has risen six-fold, according to recent satellite images from the National Institute for Space Research. Comparing data from March-April 2010 to the same period this year shows deforestation has increased from 103 square kilometers in 2010 to 593 square kilometers just one year later. Most of that deforestation is in the state of Mato Grasso, a center of agribusiness and the largest producer of soybeans in Brazil, contributing 27 percent of the country's last soybean harvest. According to Brazil's Agriculture Ministry, soy output will increase 7.2 percent to 73.7 million tons.

Wind in 2011
May 27, 2011 11:00 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

Some people like the concept of wind/renewable power. There are some who do not. Nevertheless society needs energy to run its desired lifestyle. So how are we in 2011 so far? The AWEA (American Wind Energy Association) indicated that the first quarter of 2011 saw over 1,100 megawatts (MW) of wind power capacity installed -- more than double the capacity installed in the first quarter of 2010. The U.S. wind industry had 40,181 MW of wind power capacity installed at the end of 2010, with 5,116 MW installed in 2010 alone. The U.S. wind industry has added over 35% of all new generating capacity over the past 4 years, second only to natural gas, and more than nuclear and coal combined. Today, U.S. wind power capacity represents more than 20% of the world’s installed wind power. Today, the U.S. wind industry represents not only a large market for wind power capacity installations, but also a growing market for American manufacturing. Over 400 manufacturing facilities across the U.S. make components for wind turbines, and dedicated wind facilities that manufacture major components such as towers, blades and assembled nacelles can be found in every region.

Fuel Economy Labels by EPA
May 26, 2011 01:15 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

What car is better at least in terms of fuel use, costs and environmental benefits. The decision will never be simple. The U.S. Department of Transportation and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have released new fuel economy labels that will help consumers take advantage of the increased efficiency standards achieved under the Obama Administration. The new labels, which are the most dramatic overhaul to fuel economy labels since the program began more than 30 years ago, will provide more comprehensive fuel efficiency information, including estimated annual fuel costs, savings, as well as information on each vehicle’s environmental impact. These improvements will give consumers better, more complete information to consider when purchasing new vehicles that are covered by the increased fuel economy standards. Starting with model year 2013, the improved fuel economy labels will be required to be affixed to all new passenger cars and trucks — both conventional gasoline powered and “next generation” cars, such as plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles

On the edge of extinction, Philippine eagles being picked off one-by-one
May 26, 2011 08:40 AM - Jeremy Hance, MONGABAY.COM

Down to a few hundred individuals, every Philippine eagle is important if the species is to survive. However, the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF) has recently announced that people continue to illegally trap and keep eagles captive. Since December the organization has taken in four confiscated Philippine eagles (Pithecophaga jefferyi), according to The Philippine Star. One died of a fungal infection after confiscation, while two others have suffered serious injuries.

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