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Environmental Policy

EPA looking at contaminated sites for renewable energy
August 5, 2013 05:09 PM - Roger Greenway, ENN

There are a lot of contaminated sites in the US. Many are former landfills that are urban mounds of varying size, and they are often devoid of trees. This makes them good candidate sites for solar power or other forms of renewable energy. This is a win-win opportunity in many instances! The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently updated its RE-Powering Mapping and Screening Tool, which will now provide preliminary screening results for renewable energy potential at 66,000, up from 24,000, contaminated lands, landfills, and mine sites across the country. The RE-Powering America's Land Initiative, started by EPA in 2008, encourages development of renewable energy on potentially contaminated land, landfills and mine sites when it is aligned with the community’s vision for the site. "We see responsible renewable energy development on contaminated lands and landfills as a win-win-win for the nation, local communities, and the environment," said Mathy Stanislaus, assistant administrator for the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response. "In President Obama's Climate Action Plan, the administration set a goal to double renewable electricity generation by 2020. By identifying the renewable energy potential of contaminated sites across the country, these screening results are a good step toward meeting national renewable energy goals in order to address climate change, while also cleaning up and revitalizing contaminated lands in our communities."

Jumbo problems for the Indian railways
August 5, 2013 09:12 AM - Shreya Dasgupta, MONGABAY.COM

Running late that morning, the Kanchankanya Express train zipped past Gulma and entered the Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary in northern West Bengal, India. Till a few minutes ago, impatience was writ large on every face. Now with the fog having finally lifted and the green forest cover glistening under the sun, things were finally looking up. But before my co-passengers could sigh with relief, the train came to a screeching halt, right in the middle of the forest. I looked out the door of my compartment. A group of passengers had already detrained and gathered by the railway track, speculating what was wrong. "Not to worry", one of them shouted back to us in Bengali, "The train just hit a grazing cow. We will be on our way soon." What he perhaps did not say, was that it could easily have been an elephant.

Increased grazing helps improve soil
August 5, 2013 06:18 AM - Luke Runion, NPR

The world's soil is in trouble. Ecologists say without dramatic changes to how we manage land, vast swathes of grassland are at risk of turning into hard-packed desert. To make sure that doesn't happen, researchers are testing out innovative ways to keep moisture in the soil. In eastern Colorado, one way could be in the plodding hooves of cattle. Conventional wisdom tells you that if ranchland ground has less grass, the problem is too many cows. But that's not always the case. It depends on how you manage them, if you make sure they keep moving.

Fuel from water advances
August 3, 2013 07:23 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN

Fuel from water? A form of Alchemy? Researchers have been trying for years to find a limitless, environmentally benign source of fuel. Now a University of Colorado Boulder team has developed a radically new technique that uses the power of sunlight to efficiently split water into its components of hydrogen and oxygen, paving the way for the broad use of hydrogen as a clean, green fuel. The CU-Boulder team has devised a solar-thermal system in which sunlight could be concentrated by a vast array of mirrors onto a single point atop a central tower up to several hundred feet tall. The tower would gather heat generated by the mirror system to roughly 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,350 Celsius), then deliver it into a reactor containing chemical compounds known as metal oxides, said CU-Boulder Professor Alan Weimer, research group leader.

Iraq creates first National Park
August 2, 2013 08:48 AM - Liz Shaw, ARKive.org

Iraq's Council of Ministers has approved the designation of the country's first national park, in the Mesopotamian Marshes of southern Iraq. Once the third largest wetland in the world, the Mesopotamian Marshes are widely thought to be the original 'Garden of Eden'. However, they were nearly destroyed during the Gulf War in the 1990s, when Iraq's president, Saddam Hussein, drained the area and reduced the marshland to less than ten percent of its original extent.

China's aggressive Electric Vehicle program not meeting goals
July 30, 2013 06:27 AM - ERIC YUE, Worldwatch Institute

Over the past 30 years, China's rapid economic growth and industry development have been driven in large part by specific national plans that set very ambitious targets for certain industries. The electric vehicle (EV) industry is no exception. Yet even with prioritization by the central government, the EV industry does not seem to be on track to meet its targets." According to the Ministry of Science and Technology’s (MOST) 12th Five-Year Plan for Electric Vehicles and the State Council's Energy-saving and New Energy Automotive Industry Development Plan released in 2012, 500,000 EVs and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) are to be deployed by 2015, along with 400,000 charging piles and 2,000 charging or battery-switching stations. The nation is targeting 5 million EVs and PHEVs on the road by 2020.

Climate change has the potential for significant impacts on coffee
July 30, 2013 06:05 AM - Rhett Butler, MONGABAY.COM

An inconvenient truth is not what most people want to hear before they’ve had their first cup of coffee in the morning. Our coffee break is “me time,” and we want to enjoy it. If the temperature is too high, put some ice in your cup. But for some 26 million people around the world who make it their business to produce our coffee, change is impossible to ignore.

Illegal marijuana cultivation threatens Nigeria's forests and chimps
July 29, 2013 08:49 AM - Liz Kimbrough, MONGABAY.COM

The world's highest deforestation rate, the execution of eight environmental activists including a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, and ongoing turmoil surrounding oil operations in the Niger River Delta has created a notoriously disreputable environmental record for the West African country. Now, a new threat is rising in the already-compromised forests of Nigeria: illegal marijuana cultivation.

New Study on Permafrost - Climate link
July 29, 2013 06:55 AM - EurekAlert

New research findings from the Centre for Permafrost (CENPERM) at the Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management, University of Copenhagen, document that permafrost during thawing may result in a substantial release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and that the future water content in the soil is crucial to predict the effect of permafrost thawing. The findings may lead to more accurate climate models in the future. The permafrost is thawing and thus contributes to the release of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. But the rate at which carbon dioxide is released from permafrost is poorly documented and is one of the most important uncertainties of the current climate models.

CO2 Sequestration advances
July 27, 2013 07:47 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN

Sequestration of CO2 has been discussed as one way to reduce the impact of burning fossil fuels on climate change by removing CO2 from industrial and power generation emissions and storing it indefinitely underground. This technology has been demonstrated in the laboratory and in pilot studies, but not in large scale tests. That is now changing. An injection of carbon dioxide, or CO2, has begun at a site in southeastern Washington to test deep geologic storage. Battelle researchers based at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory are injecting 1,000 tons of CO2 one-half mile underground to see if the greenhouse gas can be stored safely and permanently in ancient basalt flows. Boise Inc. teamed with Battelle, which operates PNNL for the U.S. Department of Energy, and Praxair, Inc. to conduct the CO2 injection phase of the pilot project. Injection is occurring on Boise property in deep basalt — the same massive ancient lava flows that underlie major portions of Washington, Oregon and Idaho. The joint research is conducted under the Big Sky Carbon Sequestration Partnership, which is led by Montana State University and funded by DOE and a consortium of industrial partners. It is one of seven regional partnerships throughout the United States aimed at finding safe and economical ways to permanently store the nation's greenhouse gas emissions.

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