A Green Military: Saving More than Energy
December 6, 2011 09:04 AM - Debra Atlas, Sierra Club Green Home
The Pentagon says that it aims to "develop more energy-efficient weapons, embrace non-oil energy sources, and demand more energy-conscious behavior from the troops." This move towards energy efficiency in all the branches of the military was mandated by congressional directives and presidential orders, many dating to former President George W. Bush and expanded on by President Barack Obama.
Pipeline deal could open up Alaskan oil
December 6, 2011 07:09 AM - Reuters
Two U.S. agencies have reached an agreement with ConocoPhillips on a plan in Alaska that could let the company be the first to drill for crude and gas in a national oil reserve in the state, the Interior Department said on Monday. The agreement, which was with the company, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, confirms that construction of a pipeline and bridge over the Colville River to the Alpine development known as CD-5 is acceptable, as long as environmental mitigations and other changes are outlined in the permit application. The development is in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, which is managed by the Interior Department. The Army Corps of Engineers is expected to carry out the remaining steps associated with the permit review in coming weeks. Lisa Murkowski, a U.S. senator from Alaska, said the agreement could begin to open up the NPR-A to crude and national gas production. The reserve is estimated to contain more than 1 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil.
Heavy Beijing smog causes flight delays, cancellations
December 5, 2011 06:39 AM - Reuters, BEIJING
A heavy fog blanketed parts of northern China on Monday, delaying flights and causing hundreds of cancellations, while smog hung in a dark haze over Beijing. As of 2 p.m. (0600 GMT), 126 flights had been delayed by an hour or longer and 207 were cancelled at Beijing, the world's second-busiest airport, Xinhua news agency said. The Beijing sky was so dark that many drivers kept their headlights on throughout the day, giving the city an eery, netherworld feeling. "Such super foggy weather looks like the end of the world," commented one microblogger using the name David Jiaoxiaomao. China's national weather forecaster said the fog was likely to persist across parts of China to Wednesday, causing more transport disruptions. By then, a cold front would begin dispersing the fog, said the forecaster, according to Xinhua. Highways across the northern provinces of Shandong and Hebei were also closed.
EPA proposes less costly pollution rule on boilers
December 3, 2011 08:47 AM - Timothy Gardner, Reuters, Washington, DC
The U.S. environmental regulator said on Friday it slashed the cost of proposed pollution rules on industrial boilers by $1.5 billion year by allowing some plants to fine tune existing equipment or burn cleaner fuels. The Environmental Protection Agency, under pressure from Republicans and industrial groups who accuse it of pushing for clean air rules that will cost companies with billions of dollars, has been looking for ways to ease costs and increase flexibility. The EPA on Friday proposed rules it says are more flexible than ones the agency introduced in 2010. The rules allow some plants to do maintenance on equipment, avoiding costs from adding new controls or replacing boilers. More than 99 percent of the country's boilers, from heavy industry to small businesses and universities, are either clean enough and not subject to the new rules, or will only need to do tune ups and maintenance to comply. The agency said health benefits from reduced pollution would be maintained. "Gathering the latest and best technical information and real-world data has helped us find ... the sweet spot that's affordable, practical regulations that provide the vital and long overdue health benefits Americans demand and deserve," Gina McCarthy, the EPA assistant administrator for air, told reporters in a teleconference.
The Durban Climate Talks
December 1, 2011 09:59 AM - David A Gabel, ENN
Global climate discussions have moved from Cancun to Copenhagen, and now to Durban, South Africa. They began last Monday in the hopes of finding a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, the global mandate that set targets for cutting carbon emissions. Kyoto was never ratified by the United States, the world's leading carbon emitter, and did not apply to the large growing Asian economies of China and India. Durban began amid downplayed expectations that a worldwide agreement would take place, especially following the disappointing climate talks in Copenhagen. This may be a blessing in disguise in that it will force climate activists to pursue a different strategy. Rather than a top-down approach, some are now calling for local policies that would create incremental change.
US considering using toxic fungi in war on drugs
December 1, 2011 06:28 AM - Anna Yukhananov, Reuters, WASHINGTON
Using fungi to kill coca and other illegal drug crops would be a risky tactic, as there is not enough data about how to control these killer molds and what effect they could have on people and the environment, according to a U.S. study released Wednesday. The U.S. Congress asked scientists to look into whether some types of fungi, called mycoherbicides, could stem the flow of illicit drugs into the United States by killing the plants used to make cocaine, marijuana and opium. But scientists from the National Research Council, one of the national academies of science that advises U.S. policymakers, said evidence about the fungi was sketchy and incomplete. "There are too many unresolved questions regarding efficacy -- whether they'll really perform in real-time conditions, and whether they'll be safe to non-target plants," said Raghavan Charudattan, chairman of the committee that prepared the report and professor emeritus in the University of Florida's department of plant pathology. "We did not see any data where a high level of control could be achieved," he said.
Hearing on overturning NY fracking ban draws huge turnout
November 30, 2011 06:57 AM - Edward McAllister, Reuters, LOCH SHELDRAKE, New York
The final hearings on regulations that would end a ban on drilling for natural gas in New York state got under way on Tuesday in a packed auditorium at Sullivan County Community College. In a last chance for communities to voice their views for and against a controversial drilling technique called fracking, about 300 people turned up, many of whom were left in the rain as the house spilled above capacity. Advocates of fracking, which involves blasting chemical-laced water and sand into shale rock to release gas, told a rowdy, polarized audience that drilling would create jobs and boost New York's ailing economy. Those against blamed it for contaminating water wells and threatening the safety of local communities. Outside, signs read "Don't frack with our water" and "Jail the frackers". Others disagreed. "We fight wars and import oil to get resources that we have at home," said Edward Allees, 88, from Jeffersonville, New York. "What is so special about New York that we can't drill here?" New York sits atop the Marcellus Shale formation, the largest U.S. deposit of natural gas, which also stretches across parts of Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio.
Kyoto Protocol a "Thing of the Past", says Canada
November 29, 2011 07:02 AM - David Ljunggren, Reuters, OTTAWA
Canada dismissed the Kyoto Protocol on climate change on Monday as a thing of the past, but declined to confirm a media report it will formally pull out of the international treaty before the end of this year. Although the Conservative government walked away from its Kyoto obligations years ago, a formal withdrawal would deal a symbolic blow to global talks to save the agreement, which opened in Durban, South Africa on Monday. Canada says it backs a new global deal to cut emissions of greenhouse gases, but insists it has to cover all nations, including China and India, which are not bound by Kyoto's current targets. Although Japan and Russia share Canada's view, and the United States never ratified Kyoto, no nation has yet formally renounced the treaty. "Kyoto is the past," Environment Minister Peter Kent told reporters in Ottawa, describing the decision by Canada's previous Liberal government to sign on to the protocol as "one of the biggest blunders they made." The Conservatives - who green groups say are recklessly pushing development of the Alberta oil sands and ignoring the environment - complain the Liberals signed Kyoto and then did nothing to stop the country's emissions from soaring.
Can the Kyoto Protocol be saved?
November 28, 2011 06:36 AM - Jon Herskovitz, Reuters, DURBAN
Countries will make a last ditch effort to save a dying Kyoto Protocol at global climate talks starting on Monday aimed at cutting the greenhouse gas emissions blamed by scientists for rising sea levels, intense storms and crop failures. Kyoto, which was adopted in 1997 and entered into force in 2005, commits most developed states to binding emissions targets. The talks are the last chance to set another round of targets before the first commitment period ends in 2012. Major parties have been at loggerheads for years, warnings of climate disaster are becoming more dire and diplomats worry whether host South Africa is up to the challenge of brokering the tough discussions among nearly 200 countries that run from Monday to December 9 in the coastal city of Durban. There is hope for a deal to help developing countries most hurt by global warming and a stop-gap measure to save the protocol. There is also a chance advanced economies responsible for most emissions will pledge deeper cuts at the talks known as the Conference of the Parties, or COP 17.
Australia setting up world's largest marine preserve
November 25, 2011 08:32 AM - Reuters, CANBERRA
Australia moved to set up the world's biggest marine park on Friday to protect vast areas of the Coral Sea off the country's northeast coast and the site of fierce naval battles during World War Two. Environment Minister Tony Burke said the park would cover almost 1 million square km -- an area the size of France and Germany combined -- and would help protect fish, pristine coral reefs and nesting sites for sea birds and the green turtle. "The environmental significance of the Coral Sea lies in its diverse array of coral reefs, sandy cays, deep sea plains and canyons," Burke said. "It contains more than 20 outstanding examples of isolated tropical reefs, sandy cays and islands." The new park would also cover ships sunk in the Battle of the Coral Sea, a series of naval engagements between Japanese, American and Australian forces in 1942, considered the world's first aircraft carrier battle.