Environmental Policy

Electric Cars
April 19, 2011 07:34 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

Will electric cars ever become the common way to drive? What is needed is an infrastructure that allows easy recharging of the vehicle (such as gasoline stations are for the internal combustion engine). There are two key barriers to plug-ins: first, the current battery technology is very expensive, adding thousands of dollars to the cost of a plug-in. Next, many well-established sectors must change to accommodate plug-ins. Consumers must learn the pros and cons of a plug-in lifestyle, and a new way of valuing upfront costs against operational savings. Utilities must learn to manage a large and mobile load. Cities, retailers, and other businesses must incorporate a new infrastructure of charge spots. All these players must build a new system of connectivity in order to line up charging times, billing, and consumer preferences.

Earth Day 2011
April 18, 2011 05:55 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

When is Earth Day? In many ways it should be every day but officially it is the anniversary of the first formal celebration on April 22, 1970. An estimated 20 million Americans wearing bell-bottoms and gas masks, gathered to voice their concerns about the deterioration of the environment. Earth Day is celebrated by no one central authority or government. Many different organizations (public, private and individuals) supply personal initiative to the celebration. The closest to a general or national governmental response was the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on April 16 and 17 on the National Mall. With more than 40 interactive exhibits, kids and adults can have eco-fun with hands on activities, art, music and storytelling with special guests. Special guests include Marcus McNeill from the San Diego Chargers, Madieu Williams from the Minnesota Vikings, and Olympic track star Michael Walton. Visitors learnt how to protect their own health and the environment in which they live.

Vietnam creates reserve for newly-discovered, nearly-extinct mammal, the saola
April 15, 2011 08:47 AM - Jeremy Hance, MONGABAY.COM

The Vietnam government and local people have approved a Saola Natural Reserve to protect one of the world's most endangered—and most elusive—mammals. Only discovered by the outside world in 1992, the saola (Pseudoryx nghetinhensis) inhabits the lush forests of the Annamite Mountains. No one knows how many saola remain, but it has been classified as Critically Endangered as it is likely very few.

Diisocyanates
April 15, 2011 08:13 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released action plans to address the potential health risks of methylene diphenyl diisocyanate (MDI), toluene diisocyanate (TDI), and related compounds. Americans may be exposed to these chemicals when they are used in certain applications such as spray foam insulation, sealing concrete or finishing floors. The plans identify a range of actions the agency is considering under the authority of the Toxic Substances Control Act. Spray polyurethane foam (SPF) is a highly-effective and widely used insulation and air sealant material. However, exposures to its key ingredient, isocyanates such as MDI, and other SPF chemicals in vapors, aerosols, and dust during and after installation can cause adverse health effects.

Solution to nuclear waste storage dilemma?
April 15, 2011 06:39 AM - Eileen O'Grady, Reuters, HOUSTON

Community officials in southeast New Mexico want to expand a nuclear-waste storage facility deep inside an ancient salt bed to play a bigger role in handling spent fuel from U.S. reactors, a problem now under the spotlight due to the Japanese nuclear crisis. After years of delay, the government terminated a plan for a permanent nuclear-waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. Operators at 104 U.S. reactors are storing used fuel rods, which remain radioactive for years, in pools of water and dry cask storage facilities in 30 states. The largest risk in the United States from the Fukushima event is "overpacking of the spent-fuel pools," said John Heaton, a former state representative from Eddy County, New Mexico, who supports expanded use of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) near the town of Carlsbad.

Wolves Taken Off the US Endangered Species List
April 14, 2011 09:22 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

For the first time ever, the US Congress has removed an animal from the Endangered Species List, a process typically done by a federal, non-political, science-based agency. The action by the US Congress sets a new precedent for altering the Endangered Species List based on political influence, enraging environmental groups. The removal would take effect in two western states that have known issues with wolves: Montana and Idaho. Wolves would now be managed by each state’s wildlife agency, inevitably leading to commercial hunting.

Tigers could reappear in Kazakhstan under new plan
April 14, 2011 08:14 AM - Editor, World Wildlife Fund

WWF-Russia, together with the government and experts of the Republic of Kazakhstan announced today a new programme to return tigers to the region. The plan seeks to relocate Amur tigers from the Russian Far East to suitable habitat in Kazakhstan near the delta of the Ili River, south of Balkhash Lake.

Will Colombia ban spur illegal gold pits?
April 14, 2011 06:48 AM - Diana Delgado, Reuters, BOGOTA

Colombia's ban on mining in highland ecosystems could be a double-edged sword -- it may attract illegal miners to the delicate areas where established mining companies cannot operate. The example of Canada's Greystar -- which last month withdrew permit requests for its gold and silver project over environmental concerns -- has crystallized Colombia's dilemma of trying to balance environmental concerns while boosting investment in its oil and mining sectors. "That gold will be extracted by someone. It won't be a company with good practices. It won't be a company that had eliminated the use of mercury," said Cesar Diaz, executive director of the Colombian Chamber of Mining. The fear is that small miners will come into already explored areas with rudimentary techniques that utilize mercury to separate gold and pollute rivers and soil -- Colombia has tens of thousands of both legal and illegal miners.

Does shale gas pollute more than coal?
April 13, 2011 07:18 AM - Daniel Trotta, Reuters, NEW YORK

An abundant source of U.S. natural gas widely seen as a cleaner alternative to oil and coal is in reality the fossil fuel that creates the most greenhouse gas emissions, a study concludes. The paper led by Cornell University ecology professor Robert Howarth raised howls of protest from the gas industry, which said the document was political. The study contends that so much methane escapes from the extraction of shale gas over the life of a well that it allows more heat-trapping greenhouse gas into the atmosphere than coal. The report acknowledged that natural gas is cleaner to burn than other fuels but that greater pollution derives from leakage, whether accidental or purposely designed to relieve well pressure. Improved technology could solve the problem but Howarth in an interview doubted whether that was economical considering stubbornly low natural gas prices. A North American boom in the production of shale gas, billed as an alternative to foreign oil, has depressed gas prices even while oil has soared.

Little action apparent on toxic tailings six months after Hungary red mud disaster
April 8, 2011 10:56 AM - Editor, World Wildlife Fund

Kolontár, Hungary: Six months after being deluged by a tide of toxic red sludge, towns downstream of the failed alumina tailings dam near Ajka, Hungary remain ruined and largely deserted, with residents and former residents still waiting for authorities to deliver on much of the promised assistance.

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