Environmental Policy

Economics of Coal Power Shifting
February 18, 2013 02:03 PM - Dan Ferber, Science

During the presidential campaign last fall, a single message was repeated endlessly in Appalachian coal country: President Barack Obama and his Environmental Protection Agency, critics said, had declared a "war on coal" that was shuttering U.S. coal-fired power plants and putting coal miners out of work. Not so, according to a detailed analysis of coal plant finances and economics presented here yesterday at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (which publishes ScienceNOW). Instead, coal is losing its battle with other power sources mostly on its merits. Although the United States has long generated the bulk of its electricity from coal, over the past six years that share has fallen from 50 percent to 38 percent. Plans for more than 150 new coal-fired power plants have been canceled since the mid-2000s, existing plants have been closed, and in 2012, just one new coal-fired power plant went online in the United States. To investigate the reasons for this decline, David Schlissel, an energy economist and founder of the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis in Belmont, Massachusetts, dove deeply into the broader economics of the industry and the detailed finances of individual power plants.

Rapid Expansion of EV Charging Stations Planned
February 18, 2013 06:29 AM - Tina Casey , Triple Pundit

The issue of electric vehicle range anxiety got a thorough airing last week, in the now notorious Tesla vs The New York Times battle. It started when Times reporter John Broder wrote a story about his recent Tesla Model S test drive. While acknowledging that the car itself is a thing of beauty (Motor Trend’s Car of the Year, to be precise) Broder detailed a litany of complaints about the driving experience on a 400-mile trip from Washington D.C. to Boston, primarily focusing on battery life and range. The whole thing ended ingloriously, short of the destination point with a spent battery and a tow truck involved. Of course, taking a 400 mile jaunt (actually more, considering that Broder detoured through New York City) along some of the most heavily traveled arteries in the U.S. during the dead of winter is a dicey proposition under any circumstances, but if Broder set out to demonstrate that electric vehicles are not ready for prime time, he ended up proving something else entirely.

Lead Pollution better, but still an issue
February 17, 2013 08:00 AM - University of California - Santa Cruz , via EurekAlert

Efforts to reduce lead pollution have paid off in many ways, yet the problem persists and will probably continue to affect the health of people and animals well into the future, according to experts speaking at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Boston. "Things have substantially improved with the virtual elimination of leaded gasoline, restrictions on lead paint, and other efforts to limit releases of industrial lead into the environment. But the historic legacy of lead pollution persists, and new inputs of industrial lead are adding to it," said A. Russell Flegal, professor of environmental toxicology at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Climate Change Responses Need Not be All or Nothing
February 16, 2013 08:28 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN

The dialog about climate change, man's role in causing it, and possible responses to limit it or even reverse it, takes on a crisis tone for many. Is this the best way to look at it, and is it the best way to achieve results? For some, this sort of dialog hardens positions and limits our collective ability to do anything. Is there an explanation for why this seems to be happening? An Ohio State University statistician says that the natural human difficulty with grasping probabilities is preventing Americans from dealing with climate change. In a panel discussion at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting on Feb. 15, Mark Berliner said that an aversion to statistical thinking and probability is a significant reason that we haven’t enacted strategies to deal with climate change right now.

Marine pollution incidents kill thousands of seabirds - and it could be legal!
February 15, 2013 10:41 AM - Helene Jessop and Alec Taylor, The Ecologist

Between 29 January and 6 February 2013, more than 500 seabirds, mainly guillemots, were killed or rendered helpless by a mystery substance from a pollution event off the south coast of England. Shockingly, these deaths and injuries may have resulted from legal shipping activity. The substance was subsequently identified as a man-made synthetic polymer known as polyisobutene, or PIB. This same substance has also caused the deaths of thousands of other seabirds in recent years in the Irish and North Seas.

Elephants Poached in Gabon's National Park
February 15, 2013 09:27 AM - Allison Winter, ENN

Earlier this month the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) announced that Gabon's Minkebe Park has lost over 11,000 elephants due to poaching. Gabon contains over half of Africa's forest elephants, with a population estimated at over 40,000, however with this recent drop, WCS scientists confirm that Africa's largest elephant population has been cut in half during the past ten years. Elephants are poached mainly for their ivory, which has been an important part of Asian art for over a thousand years. Ivory can also be carved and used in everything from billiard balls to piano keys...

Not ALL Conservatives Doubt Climate Change
February 14, 2013 06:45 AM - Roger Cohn, Yale Environment360

Republican Bob Inglis’ statement that he believed in human-caused climate change helped cost him his seat in Congress. In a Yale Environment 360 interview, Inglis explains why he is now trying to persuade his fellow conservatives that their principles can help save the planet. Heresy may have cost Bob Inglis his seat in the U.S. Congress. As a six-term Republican congressman from one of South Carolina’s most conservative districts, Inglis told an audience at a 2010 campaign event that he believed in human-caused climate change. The fallout from that comment helped ensure his defeat by a Tea Party-backed candidate.

Time to eat the ugly ones...
February 13, 2013 11:06 AM - Rosie Magudia, The Ecologist

Last week, MEPs (members of the European Parliament) voted overwhelmingly to end the wasteful practice of fish "discards". While a victory for those concerned about the future of our fisheries, what to do with the fish currently thrown overboard remains unknown. But a food distribution system taking North America by storm, championing collaborative communities and sustainable fresh food, may be part of the answer — Community Supported Fisheries.

Poll Reveals American Attitude Towards Climate Change, Support for Clean Energy
February 13, 2013 10:05 AM - Allison Winter, ENN

Whether you believe climate change is occurring or not, according to a Duke University poll, the percentage of Americans who think climate change is occurring has reached its highest level since 2007. In recent years, the climate change debate has been a hot topic not only among scientists and experts in the field, but among political party lines.

Polar Bears may need to be fed by humans
February 13, 2013 06:38 AM - ed struzik, Yale Environment360

In a paper released this week, the world’s leading polar bear scientists say the time has come to consider drastic measures to save these iconic animals, including supplemental feeding by humans during ice-free periods and relocating more southerly populations to the High Arctic. The day may soon come when some of the 19 polar bear populations in Canada, Alaska, Greenland, Norway, and Russia will have to be fed by humans in order to keep them alive during an extended ice-free season or prevent them from roaming into northern communities. Some bears may have to be placed in temporary holding compounds until it is cold enough for them to go back onto the sea ice. In worst-case scenarios, polar bears from southern regions may have to be relocated to more northerly climes that have sufficient sea ice cover.

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