Environmental Policy

Update: Electric Car Sales
August 2, 2012 07:23 AM - Guest Author, Clean Techies

In a few weeks, we’ll come upon the four-year anniversary of when candidate Barack Obama proposed that America put 1 million plug-in electric vehicles on our roads by 2015. Even before the sale of the first Chevy Volt or Nissan Leaf, most observers knew that hitting the seven-figure mark by 2015 was more aspirational than an actual goal. Recent sales numbers for EVs in the U.S. have revealed market challenges facing battery-powered cars. Last week, Nissan reported that June 2012 sales of its electric Leaf reached 535 units—less than one-third of the 1,708 LEAFs sold in June 2011. Throughout 2012, monthly sales numbers have hovered around the 500-unit mark. That’s a troubling sign for EVs because Nissan had announced that its sales would double from 9,674 in 2011 to nearly 20,000 units this year. If trends continue, Nissan’s Leaf-manufacturing facility in Smyrna, Tennessee—expected to come online in December—could operate well below its capacity of 150,000 units annually.

EPA and Flame Retardants
July 31, 2012 11:44 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

Decabromodiphenyl ether is not much of a household word. It has been used in some flame retardants but its environmental effects are far from clear. In its quest to identify possible substitutes for a toxic flame retardant chemical known as decabromodiphenyl ether, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released a draft report on potential alternatives. This comprehensive assessment, developed with public participation under EPA’s Design for the Environment (DfE) program, profiles the environmental and human health hazards on 30 alternatives to decaBDE, which will be phased out of production by December 2013.

Humpback Whales alter migration pattern, stay in Antarctic waters longer
July 31, 2012 06:31 AM - ScienceDaily

Large numbers of humpback whales are remaining in bays along the Western Antarctic Peninsula to feast on krill late into the austral autumn, long after their annual migrations to distant breeding grounds were believed to begin, according to a new Duke University study. The study, published July 30 in the journal Endangered Species Research, provides the first density estimates for these whales in both open and enclosed habitats along the peninsula in late autumn.

Pacific Coral Triangle 'at risk of collapse'
July 30, 2012 04:20 PM - Nora Gamolo, SciDevNet

The Coral Triangle, a roughly triangular marine zone in the Indo-Pacific region that is considered to have the world's richest concentration of marine biodiversity, is facing potential ecological collapse due to heavy pressure inflicted by human activities, according to a new report. The warning appears in a collaborative study, 'Reefs at Risk Revisited in the Coral Triangle', produced by a consortium led by the World Resources Institute, a global environmental think-tank based in Washington DC, United States. It serves as a status report on the wellbeing of coral reefs in or near the six countries comprising the triangle.

Electric Car Sales Still Slower Than Expected
July 30, 2012 06:28 AM - Brad Berman, Clean Techies

In a few weeks, we'll come upon the four-year anniversary of when candidate Barack Obama proposed that America put 1 million plug-in electric vehicles on our roads by 2015. Even before the sale of the first Chevy Volt or Nissan Leaf, most observers knew that hitting the seven-figure mark by 2015 was more aspirational than an actual goal. Recent sales numbers for EVs in the U.S. have reveal market challenges facing battery-powered cars. Last week, Nissan reported that June 2012 sales of its electric Leaf reached 535 units—less than one-third of the 1,708 LEAFs sold in June 2011. Throughout 2012, monthly sales numbers have hovered around the 500-unit mark. That’s a troubling sign for EVs because Nissan had announced that its sales would double from 9,674 in 2011 to nearly 20,000 units this year. If trends continue, Nissan’s Leaf-manufacturing facility in Smyrna, Tennessee—expected to come online in December—could operate well below its capacity of 150,000 units annually.

Is it Safe to Eat that Fish you caught?
July 29, 2012 09:25 AM - ROWAN SHARP/ecoRI

On a recent afternoon, a few hours before dusk, Brian Watson, of South Providence, sat in a red fabric lawn chair on the wooden dock at India Point Park. Watson was fishing for bluefish and striped bass — "blues and stripers" — as he has for the past seven years, and he always eats his catch. Does he worry about the safety of taking fish from heavily urban waters? "If the water wasn’t good, they wouldn't let us fish," he said.

Hybrid Polar/Grizzly Bears showing up in the Arctic
July 28, 2012 07:52 AM - YALE Environment 360

Two Canadian biologists have reported sighting a handful of grizzly bears and hybrid grizzly/polar bears at unusually high latitudes in the Arctic, indicating that the interbreeding of the two bear species is becoming more common as the climate warms and grizzlies venture farther north. The sightings of three grizzly bears and two hybrid bears, made in late April and May, represent an unprecedented cluster of these animals at such high latitudes. The biologists even took DNA samples from a grizzly bear at 74 degrees North latitude. The report of the sightings comes on the heels of a recently published analysis of newly sequenced polar bear genomes, suggesting that climate change and genetic exchange with brown bears helped create the polar bear as we know it today. The genetic mixing that the Pennsylvania State and University of Buffalo analysis identified happening in the past — in which polar bears would interbreed with grizzly bears as the polar bears' sea ice habitat shrunk — is now happening again, according to bear biologists.

Mineral Rush in Greenland; Independence May be Around the Corner
July 27, 2012 09:33 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

Greenland is an autonomous territory of the Kingdom of Denmark. The Danish government had ruled over it until 1979 when the island was granted home rule. However, the Danes still control Greenland's foreign affairs, defense, police, justice system, and financial policy. Recently, however, Greenland has been courted by multinational companies and foreign leaders looking to exploit its rare minerals and potential oil reserves. The new attention brought to the island is leading Greenland's premier, Kuupik Kleist, to seriously consider moving toward full independence.

Can Extreme Weather CONTRIBUTE to Climate Change?
July 27, 2012 06:26 AM - Science Daily

While experts debate whether extreme weather conditions such as this summer’s record rainfall can be explained by climate change, University of Leicester geographers are investigating whether the opposite is true — does extreme weather impact on climate change? To answer the question, a team of researchers from the Department of Geography and Centre for Landscape and Climate Research at the University of Leicester set up a new monitoring station in June to measure greenhouse gas emissions from drained and cultivated peatlands in the East Anglian Fens. They will make measurements over an extended period in order to record carbon emissions over a wide spectrum of weather conditions.

Exercise Really Does Help you live longer!
July 26, 2012 04:36 PM - Scott Douglas, Runners World

Regular physical activity adds about four years to life expectancy, and endurance exercise during leisure time seems to be better at extending life than physical activity done as work, according to a new research review published in the Journal of Aging Research. German researchers gathered well-designed studies on one of the most basic, but important, questions in health: Does physical activity increase life expectancy? In reviewing the results of the studies, they found the answer was an unequivocal yes. Among the studies, there was a wide range of extra years found for active versus nonactive people, from less than half a year in one study to close to seven years in another. When the results of the studies were combined, the researchers wrote, "The median increase of life expectancy of men and women in the eight studies presenting data on both sexes amounted to 3.7 years each."

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