Environmental Policy

Biofuel breakthrough
January 22, 2012 08:45 AM - Paula Leighton, SciDevNet

Brown seaweed's potential as a vast source of biofuels has been highlighted with the announcement that scientists have found a way of converting all its major sugars into ethanol. A team reported in Science today (19 January) that it has engineered a microbe that will convert the sugars to ethanol, overturning one of the main obstacles to making the use of brown macroalgae, or seaweed, as a biofuel feedstock competitive. The prospective ethanol yield from brown seaweed is approximately two times higher than that from sugarcane and five times higher than maize, from the same area of cultivation. But its full potential cannot be reached because of the inability of industrial microbes to break down alginate, one of the three most abundant sugars in brown seaweed, commonly known as kelp, which is the most widely grown seaweed in the world.

Obama's Calculus for Terminating the Keystone Pipeline
January 20, 2012 10:53 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

Election years are always a terrible time to make big decisions. Everything leaders do is influenced by calculations regarding their re-election. Whether something is right or wrong often matters less than what will bring about more votes. The decision by the Obama Administration to put to rest the controversial Keystone XL pipeline project is no exception. However, this in itself does not mean the decision is without its merits.

Globally, 9 of the 10 warmest years on record occurred since 2000
January 20, 2012 06:43 AM - Reuters

The global average temperature last year was the ninth-warmest in the modern meteorological record, continuing a trend linked to greenhouse gases that saw nine of the 10 hottest years occurring since the year 2000, NASA scientists said on Thursday. A separate report from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said the average temperature for the United States in 2011 as the 23rd warmest year on record. The global average surface temperature for 2011 was 0.92 degrees F (0.51 degrees C) warmer than the mid-20th century baseline temperature, researchers at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies said in a statement. The institute's temperature record began in 1880. The first 11 years of the new century were notably hotter than the middle and late 20th century, according to institute director James Hansen. The only year from the 20th century that was among the top 10 warmest years was 1998.

Trucks and Diesel Air Pollution
January 19, 2012 10:21 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

It is annoying to be driving behind a truck especially one that smells of diesel combustion products. Doing something about that is desirable but it will come at a tremendous cost. trucks are bought and used for years. It is not something that you replace quickly because it is costly. A common trend in environmental reporting is to put things in terms of jobs vs. the environment. For the port cities such as LA environmental protection has become more important than jobs. Once upon a time a new truck might cost $20,000. Now they are six figures which hurts the small independent truckers in particular.

European Commission Aims to Cut Food Waste 50 Percent by 2020
January 19, 2012 09:25 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

Europe may be facing much larger problem than what to do with its food waste. But being pushed through the European parliament is a bill that will have widespread significance. That is because food waste accounts for one of the largest sources of overall waste going to landfills. Per year, the average person throws away 300 kg (660 lbs) per year, and of this, two thirds is still edible. MEPs are railing against what they see as unsustainable levels of waste. The resolution being passed through parliament is set to be approved today.

China to Help Saudis With Novel Nuke Power
January 19, 2012 08:25 AM - Susan Kraemer, Green Prophet

In the wake of a 6-day trip by China's Premier Win Jiabao to Saudi Arabia, China and Saudi Arabia have forged an alliance on developing nuclear power. Saudi Arabia has signed an agreement with China for assistance in the development of nuclear power, using the last of its oil wealth to invest in the most controversial form of a low carbon energy future for its energy hungry nation. In 2010, the Kingdom established the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KACARE) to develop low carbon sources of energy, prompting us to ask: Who's Going Nuclear in the Middle East?

Obama administration rejects Keystone
January 19, 2012 06:50 AM - Jeff Mason and Roberta Rampton, Reuters, WASHINGTON

The Obama administration on Wednesday rejected the Keystone crude oil pipeline project, a decision welcomed by environmental groups but blasted by the domestic energy industry. U.S. President Barack Obama said TransCanada's application for the 1,700-mile (2,740-km) pipeline was denied because the State Department did not have enough time to complete the review process. "This announcement is not a judgment on the merits of the pipeline, but the arbitrary nature of a deadline that prevented the State Department from gathering the information necessary to approve the project and protect the American people," Obama said in a statement.

China Sets Historic Limits on GHG Emissions from Select Regions
January 18, 2012 10:04 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

China is starting to get on board with the international push to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Last week, China's authoritarian government ordered five cities and two provinces to institute limits on GHG emissions. These areas will now have to submit proposals to the national government's National Development and Reform Commission on how they plan to achieve it.

Japan extends allowed operating life of nuclear reactors
January 18, 2012 06:53 AM - Risa Maeda, Reuters, TOKYO

Japan will allow nuclear reactors to operate for up to 60 years in revised regulations on power plant operators even as it looks to shift gradually away from atomic power in the wake of the Fukushima disaster. The move on Wednesday, which marks the first time Japan will set a limit on a reactor's maximum lifespan, comes while the country debates a new energy strategy that is expected to give a greater role to renewable, clean energy sources. The government said it aims to introduce the 60-year limit a year from now as part of a comprehensive revision of laws regulating nuclear plant operators in the wake of Fukushima, where reactor cooling systems were stopped by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, triggering meltdowns and radiation leaks that led to mass evacuations and widespread contamination.

Genetically Modified Plants To Resist Intense Drought
January 17, 2012 04:23 PM - David Allouche, NoCamels

Israeli agro-biotechnology company, Rosetta Green, has developed a new technology to develop plants that are better able to withstand prolonged periods of severe drought. The company aims to develop new plant varieties resistant to harsh climatic condition, maintaining an increased yield. The company, based in Rehovot, Israel, experimented on tobacco plants that were irrigated with seawater instead of freshwater. The genetically modified plants created by the company were able to grow under seawater irrigation, as opposed to the control group of plants. According to the company's CEO, Amir Avniel, "the frequent droughts afflicting the world in recent years and the motivation to expand to arid lands containing brackish water require the development of plant varieties resistant to drought and irrigation with salt water." Rosetta Green is using a technology that can identify MicroRNAs, which are short RNA molecules that play an important role in the regulation of key genetic traits in major crops. The MicroRNAs identified by the company were used to develop prototype plants with significantly improved drought tolerance.

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