Environmental Policy

Manufacturing Getting More and More Energy Efficient!
April 4, 2013 05:54 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN

The amount of energy we use to manufacture the products we use every day is a significant part of the energy needed to support out lifestyle. As the planet gets more and more populated, can we continue to make manufacturing more efficient, or are thee limits to this? A new report by researchers at MIT and elsewhere finds that the global manufacturing sector has made great strides in energy efficiency: The manufacturing of materials such as steel, cement, paper and aluminum has become increasingly streamlined, requiring far less energy than when these processes were first invented. However, despite more energy-efficient manufacturing, the researchers found that such processes may be approaching their thermodynamic limits: There are increasingly limited options available to make them significantly more efficient. The result, the team observed, is that energy efficiency for many important processes in manufacturing is approaching a plateau.

Sumatran Rhino found in Kalimantan after 20 years of being unseen
April 3, 2013 08:41 AM - Kathryn Pintus, ARKive.org

The Sumatran rhino has not been seen in the state of Kalimantan, Borneo, for more than two decades, but recent evidence has been found to suggest that this threatened species still occurs in the Indonesian state. Now considered to be one of the world’s most threatened mammals with just 200 to 275 individuals remaining in the wild, the Critically Endangered Sumatran rhino once roamed across the Himalayan foothills and east to southern China, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Vietnam and Peninsular Malaysia.

Synthetic Biology
April 3, 2013 06:02 AM - WIldlife Conservation Society

A new paper says a discussion on the benefits and risks of synthetic biology to conservation is necessary. The potential exists to re-creating extinct species and to create genetically modified super-species. An upcoming conference at Clare College in Cambridge, England, will examine the nexus of synthetic biology and conservation What effects will the rapidly growing field of synthetic biology have on the conservation of nature? The ecological and ethical challenges stemming from this question will require a new and continuing dialogue between members of the synthetic biology and biodiversity conservation communities, according to authors of a new paper. According to the paper, the field of synthetic biology—a discipline that utilizes chemically synthesized DNA to create organisms that address human needs—is developing rapidly, with billions of dollars being invested annually. Many extol the virtues of synthetic biology as providing potential solutions to human health problems, food security, and energy needs. Advocates also see in synthetic biology tools for combating climate change and water deficits. Critics warn that genetically modified organisms could pose a danger to native species and natural ecosystems.

Ontario Almost Totally off Coal Generation
April 2, 2013 02:15 PM - Keith Schneider, Yale Environment360

Ontario is on the verge of becoming the first industrial region in North America to eliminate all coal-fired electrical generation. Here’s how Canada's most populous province did it — and what the U.S. and others can learn from it. By most measures of environmental policy and progress, Ontario, Canada ranks well. Over the last half-century, Canada’s most populous province required cities and industries to treat every gallon of wastewater, dramatically reduced the level of sulfur and other pollutants that caused acid rain, and convinced the big and politically powerful pulp and paper industry to install state-of-the-art emissions control equipment.

Pipeline Ruptured in Arkansas, Major Oil Spill
April 1, 2013 11:54 AM - Allison Winter, ENN

A leak from the Pegasus pipeline was discovered near Mayflower, Arkansas on Friday, leading to an estimated spill of over 10,000 barrels of Canadian Dilbit. Reports state that the pipeline was carrying Wabasca Heavy crude from western Canada when it ruptured. Wabasca Heavy is a type of diluted bitumen (a type of crude oil that is heavier than most conventional crude oil) from Alberta's tar sands region.

Oil Drilling and Production in the Brazilian Rainforest is the Newest Threat
April 1, 2013 06:04 AM - ALYSSA DANIGELIS, DISCOVERY NEWS

Remember when cattle ranching was the biggest threat to the Amazon rainforest? Now add the relentless quest for oil. The Ecuadorian government is currently planning to sell an enormous area of pristine rainforest to oil companies. Ever since I can remember being aware of the Amazon rainforest, my understanding was that big corporations were steadily razing it to make way for cows raised for beef. While illegal cattle ranching continues to be a major threat, oil interests have been hard to keep at bay.

Is Hemp Farming the next Green Job growth industry
March 31, 2013 08:00 AM - Nikolas Kozloff, Guest Contributor, MONGABAY.COM

Though Obama has frequently spoken of the need for more "green jobs," he has failed to acknowledge the inherent environmental advantages associated with a curious plant called hemp. One of the earliest domesticated crops, hemp is incredibly versatile and can be utilized for everything from food, clothing, rope, paper and plastic to even car parts. In an era of high unemployment, hemp could provide welcome relief to the states and help to spur the transition from antiquated and polluting manufacturing jobs to the new green economy. What is more, in lieu of our warming world and climate change, the need for environmentally sustainable industries like hemp has never been greater. Given all of these benefits, why have Obama and the political establishment chosen to remain silent? The explanation has to do with retrograde and backward beliefs which have been hindering environmental progress for a generation. A biological cousin of marijuana, hemp contains minute amounts of THC or tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a psychoactive chemical. Even though advocates say one would have to smoke huge amounts of hemp to get high, the plant occupies a highly dubious legal status in the U.S. During the 1970s, Congress declared hemp a "Schedule I" drug under the Controlled Substances Act, ridiculously lopping the plant in the same category as heroin. Though the authorities allow farmers to petition the federal government to grow hemp, the Drug Enforcement Administration or D.E.A. has proven incredibly resistant to such licenses and for all intents and purposes the crop has remained illegal [ironically enough, however, the U.S. imports many hemp-related products from abroad].

New Emissions/Gas Mileage Standards
March 30, 2013 07:51 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN

Once again, the EPA is tightening the fuel efficiency standards for autos and light trucks. It is also tightening the emissions limits that new vehicles will have to meet. This is, in general, a good thing since it will reduce gas consumption, and also reduce air pollutant emissions. Of course, not everyone is happy about this action. And the economic analysis of the cost/benefits seems to be overly optimistic. According to the EPA, the proposal supports efforts by states to reduce harmful levels of smog and soot and eases their ability to attain and maintain science-based national ambient air quality standards to protect public health, while also providing flexibilities for small businesses, including hardship provisions and additional lead time for compliance. EPA Acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe said "Today’s proposed standards — which will save thousands of lives and protect the most vulnerable -- are the next step in our work to protect public health and will provide the automotive industry with the certainty they need to offer the same car models in all 50 states."

Rising up to prepare for sea level rise
March 29, 2013 08:56 AM - Nancy Schneider, EarthPeople

Situated among the trees and mountains along the scenic Hudson River, Kingston, New York seems far away from the salty blue waves of the Atlantic. Yet, just 100 miles inland from the World Trade Center, at the southern tip of Manhattan where New York meets the Atlantic, the Tidal Waterfront Flooding Task Force of the Kingston Conservation Advisory Council (CAC) has begun to plan a strategy to manage the inevitable effects of a rising sea. This volunteer advisory board, residents, community advocates, city officials, grassroots organizations, and State experts met with Catalysis Adaptation Partners to determine the impacts of storm surges and Sea Level Rise (SRL) on this historic town, the former capital of New York State.

Black Bears return to Reno
March 29, 2013 06:21 AM - Wildlife Conservation Society

A new study from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the Nevada Department of Wildlife ( NDOW) has pieced together the last 150 years of history for one of the state's most interesting denizens: the black bear. The study, which looked at everything from historic newspaper articles to more recent scientific studies, indicates that black bears in Nevada were once distributed throughout the state but subsequently vanished in the early 1900s. Today, the bear population is increasing and rapidly reoccupying its former range due in part to the conservation and management efforts of NDOW and WCS. Compelled in part by dramatic increases in human/bear conflicts and a 17-fold increase in bear mortalities due to collisions with vehicles reported between the early 1990s and mid- 2000s, WCS and NDOW began a 15-year study of black bears in Nevada that included a review of the animal’s little-known history in the state.

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