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Horse "Passports" Proposed in Europe as Meat Scandal Gallops On

As the horsemeat-dressed-as-beef scandal continues to rock Europe's food industry, a number of organizations are calling on stricter European regulation, including an EU-wide horse passport register. The Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE) said creating a centralised record of horse passports would prevent the issuance of duplicate passports, thereby curbing the risk that horses banned from slaughter enter the food chain. There is no evidence that eating horsemeat in itself poses any health risk, but veterinarians give horses drugs which are banned from human consumption. >> Read the Full Article

Economics of Coal Power Shifting

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. >> Read the Full Article

Rapid Expansion of EV Charging Stations Planned

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. >> Read the Full Article

Lead Pollution better, but still an issue

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. >> Read the Full Article

Climate Change Responses Need Not be All or Nothing

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. >> Read the Full Article

Global Hydropower and Geothermal Growth Slow

Although the global consumption and installed capacity of hydropower and geothermal technologies have increased steadily since 2003, both types of energy saw slower growth in 2011, according to new research conducted by the Worldwatch Institute for its Vital Signs Online service (www.worldwatch.org). Global installed capacity of hydropower reached 970 gigawatts (GW), only a 1.6 percent increase from the previous year, while geothermal cumulative capacity reached 11.2 GW, slowing to below 1 percent for the first time since 2002, writes report author Evan Musolino. "Despite the recent slowdown in growth, the overall market for hydropower and geothermal power is increasing in part because these two sources are not subject to the variability in generation that plagues other renewable energy sources such as wind and solar," said Musolino, a research associate with the Worldwatch’s Climate and Energy Program. "The greater reliability of hydro and geothermal can thus be harnessed to provide reliable baseload power." >> Read the Full Article

Marine pollution incidents kill thousands of seabirds - and it could be legal!

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. >> Read the Full Article

Elephants Poached in Gabon's National Park

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... >> Read the Full Article

The Destruction of Big Rocks

There are big rocks waiting to fall onto the Earth one day. Not too often but they are there. As an asteroid roughly half as large as a football field — and with energy equal to a large hydrogen bomb — readies for a fly-by of Earth on Friday, two California scientists are unveiling their proposal for a system that could eliminate a threat of this size in an hour. The same system could destroy asteroids 10 times larger than the one known as 2012 DA14 in about a year, with evaporation starting at a distance as far away as the Sun. UC Santa Barbara physicist and professor Philip M. Lubin, and Gary B. Hughes, a researcher and professor from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, conceived DE-STAR, or Directed Energy Solar Targeting of Asteroids an exploRation, as a realistic means of mitigating potential threats posed to the Earth by asteroids and comets. >> Read the Full Article

Environmental Excellence in Racing? YES!

Vodafone McLaren Mercedes has become the world's first motor sport team to receive the FIA Institute's Environmental Award for the Achievement of Excellence. The award is part of a broader initiative between the FIA and the FIA Institute aimed at evaluating and reducing the environmental impact of motor sport. It is also the highest level attainable within the FIA Institute Sustainability Programme, which helps motor sport stakeholders to measure, improve and be recognised for their environmental performance. >> Read the Full Article