Wind Power in the US Expected to Peak in 2012
August 19, 2012 07:42 AM - The Green Economy
The U.S. Department of Energy's "2011 Wind Technologies Market Report" finds that in 2011, the United States was still one of the fastest-growing markets for wind power. Around 6.8 gigwatts (GW) of new wind power capabilities were established in 2011, up from 5.2 GW in 2010. 2011 levels, however, were still beneath the 10 GW built in 2009. With the concerns of uncertain federal policies on the way, 2012 is expected to have the wind power market reach its peak, according to the research. Put together by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), the "2011 Wind Technologies Market Report" listed some other important points: Today, wind power accounts for over 10% of the total electricity production in six states, two of which have over 20%. Combined, these statistics comprise over 3% of the nation's entire supply of electricity. In 2011, wind power made up 32% of all the new additions to U.S. electricity capacity.
Tighter Rules on Coal Dust Exposure Backed by the GAO
August 18, 2012 08:29 AM - SCIENCE
After an extensive review—including a visit to a working coal mine in Pennsylvania—a U.S. government watchdog agency has concluded that mine safety regulators relied on sound science in proposing a new rule designed to reduce miners' exposure to coal dust. Industry groups had challenged the research underlying the 2010 proposal, and late last year Congress asked its investigative arm, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), to look into the matter. Since 1968, more than 75,000 U.S. coal miners have died from lung diseases caused by coal mine dust, today's GAO report notes. And recent studies have suggested that so-called black lung disease is on the rise, threatening more than 85,000 miners working in 26 states. In a bid to reduce the threat, in October 2010 the Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) proposed reducing allowable concentrations of coal mine dust, lowering the standard from 2.0 milligrams of dust per cubic meter of air (mg/m3) to 1.0 milligram per cubic meter.
Cold-Blooded species may adapt to climate change faster than thought
August 17, 2012 07:22 AM - ScienceDaily
In the face of a changing climate many species must adapt or perish. Ecologists studying evolutionary responses to climate change forecast that cold-blooded tropical species are not as vulnerable to extinction as previously thought. The study, published in the British Ecological Society's Functional Ecology, considers how fast species can evolve and adapt to compensate for a rise in temperature. The research, carried out at the University of Zurich, was led by Dr Richard Walters, now at Reading University, alongside David Berger now at Uppsala University and Wolf Blanckenhorn, Professor of Evolutionary Ecology at Zurich.
Algae Fuel Advancing in Practicality
August 16, 2012 06:21 AM - The NOCAMELS TEAM, NoCamels
Its deserts are hot and dry, and underground aquifers in the south are brackish or saline. By most standards the deserts in Israel don’t make prime real estate for farmers, but as far as algae are concerned —— minute plants that grow in water and on ponds as scum —— Israel's conditions are perfect. And a new company from Tel Aviv called Univerve is working to turn this natural substance into third-generation renewable fuel for today and the future. High oil prices, and the fact that traditional fossil fuels such as gasoline create dangerous greenhouse gases, have sparked an international movement to create new biofuels from renewable resources.
Carbon Capture? Is it a Foreseeable Reality?
August 15, 2012 11:56 AM - Danielle Thé
Interesting new research by MIT takes a look at the viability of capturing carbon from the air. The study suggests that at least in the near future, this would not be a cost effective measure. Since most of the world’s governments have not yet enacted regulations to curb emissions of greenhouse gases, some experts have advocated the development of technologies to remove carbon dioxide directly from the air. But a new MIT study shows that, at least for the foreseeable future, such proposals are not realistic because their costs would vastly exceed those of blocking emissions right at the source, such as at the powerplants that burn fossil fuels. Some purveyors of various new technologies for scrubbing carbon dioxide out of the air are reminiscent of "snake-oil salesmen," says Howard Herzog, a senior research engineer at the MIT Energy Initiative and co-author of the new analysis published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study was co-authored by MIT civil and environmental engineering postdoc Kurt Zenz House, along with researchers at C12 Energy in Berkeley, Calif., and at Stanford University.
Northwest Passage is open again - NASA
August 15, 2012 06:39 AM - Editor, MONGABAY.COM
A satellite image released by NASA last week shows a key channel that forms part of the Northwest Passage is partially free of ice. The image, acquired by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite, shows that more than two-thirds of the Parry Channel was ice-free on July 30. The median coverage for that date was 79 percent from 1980-2010. The Parry Channel separates Victoria Island from Melville Island in Canada's far north.
Record Burmese Python found in the Florida Everglades
August 14, 2012 07:15 AM - Megan Gannon, MSNBC
A double record-setting Burmese python has been found in the Florida Everglades. At 17 feet, 7 inches (5.3 meters) in length, it is the largest snake of its kind found in the state and it was carrying a record 87 eggs. Scientists say the finding highlights how dangerously comfortable the invasive species has become in its new home. "This thing is monstrous, it's about a foot wide," said Kenneth Krysko, of the Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida. "It means these snakes are surviving a long time in the wild, there's nothing stopping them and the native wildlife are in trouble."
Rate of Arctic summer sea ice loss is much greater than predicted
August 13, 2012 01:12 PM - EurActiv
Sea ice in the Arctic is disappearing at a far greater rate than previously expected, according to data from the first purpose-built satellite launched to study the thickness of the Earth's polar caps. Preliminary results from the European Space Agency's CryoSat-2 probe indicate that 900 cubic kilometres of summer sea ice has disappeared from the Arctic ocean over the past year. This rate of loss is 50% higher than most scenarios outlined by polar scientists and suggests that global warming, triggered by rising greenhouse gas emissions, is beginning to have a major impact on the region. In a few years the Arctic ocean could be free of ice in summer, triggering a rush to exploit its fish stocks, oil, minerals and sea routes.
Black Carbon from Slash and Burn Practices Still a Problem in Brazil
August 13, 2012 06:44 AM - Rachel Nuwer, Science
Although nearly 40 years have passed since Brazil banned slash-and-burn practices in its Atlantic Forest, the destruction lingers. New research reveals that charred plant material is leaching out of the soil and into rivers, eventually making its way to the ocean. So much of this "black carbon" is entering the marine ecosystem that it could be hurting ocean life, although further tests will be needed to confirm this possibility. People have used fire to shape Earth's vegetation for millennia. In Brazil's Atlantic Forest, Europeans began burning trees to make way for settlements and agriculture in the 16th century. What once blanketed 1.3 million square kilometers and ranked as one of the world's largest tropical forests had shrunk to 8% of its former size by 1973, when protective laws were put in place.
Extreme Drought Impacting Crop Yields
August 11, 2012 07:32 AM - NBC News wire reports
Federal forecasters are predicting record prices for corn and soybeans, raising fears of a new world food crisis as the worst U.S. drought in half a century continues to punish key farm states. The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Friday said production of U.S. corn and soybeans is expected to be down 17 percent from its forecast last month of nearly 13 billion bushels, and 13 percent lower than last year. It was the second month in a row when the USDA has cut its production estimate. Corn prices briefly surged to a record on the USDA's forecast, but then retreated because the government said demand for the grain would fall due to its soaring cost.