Top Stories

Pipeline Ruptured in Arkansas, Major Oil Spill

A leak from the Pegasus pipeline was discovered near Mayflower, Arkansas on Friday, leading to an estimated spill of over 10,000 barrels of Canadian Dilbit. Reports state that the pipeline was carrying Wabasca Heavy crude from western Canada when it ruptured. Wabasca Heavy is a type of diluted bitumen (a type of crude oil that is heavier than most conventional crude oil) from Alberta's tar sands region. >> Read the Full Article

Pharmaceuticals in Streams

Pharmaceuticals commonly found in the environment are found in streams, with unknown impacts on aquatic life and water quality. So reports a new Ecological Applications paper, which highlights the ecological cost of pharmaceutical waste and the need for more research into environmental impacts. Pharmaceuticals, or prescription and over-the-counter medications made for human use or veterinary or agribusiness purposes, are found often in the environment. Antibiotics,vitamins, supplements, and sexual enhancement drugs are contained in this group. These products typically enter the environment when passed through the body and then entering into the ground or sewer lines, or when disposed of in the trash, septic tank, or sewage system. >> Read the Full Article

Using 'Biochar' To Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions

'Biochar' is the name for charcoal when it is used as a soil amendment. People add charcoal to land in order to increase soil fertility and agricultural productivity. In addition to these benefits, researchers are now saying that biochar has potential to mitigate climate change as it can help sequester carbon and thus cut our greenhouse gas emissions. >> Read the Full Article

Oil Drilling and Production in the Brazilian Rainforest is the Newest Threat

Remember when cattle ranching was the biggest threat to the Amazon rainforest? Now add the relentless quest for oil. The Ecuadorian government is currently planning to sell an enormous area of pristine rainforest to oil companies. Ever since I can remember being aware of the Amazon rainforest, my understanding was that big corporations were steadily razing it to make way for cows raised for beef. While illegal cattle ranching continues to be a major threat, oil interests have been hard to keep at bay. >> Read the Full Article

Is Hemp Farming the next Green Job growth industry

Though Obama has frequently spoken of the need for more "green jobs," he has failed to acknowledge the inherent environmental advantages associated with a curious plant called hemp. One of the earliest domesticated crops, hemp is incredibly versatile and can be utilized for everything from food, clothing, rope, paper and plastic to even car parts. In an era of high unemployment, hemp could provide welcome relief to the states and help to spur the transition from antiquated and polluting manufacturing jobs to the new green economy. What is more, in lieu of our warming world and climate change, the need for environmentally sustainable industries like hemp has never been greater. Given all of these benefits, why have Obama and the political establishment chosen to remain silent? The explanation has to do with retrograde and backward beliefs which have been hindering environmental progress for a generation. A biological cousin of marijuana, hemp contains minute amounts of THC or tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a psychoactive chemical. Even though advocates say one would have to smoke huge amounts of hemp to get high, the plant occupies a highly dubious legal status in the U.S. During the 1970s, Congress declared hemp a "Schedule I" drug under the Controlled Substances Act, ridiculously lopping the plant in the same category as heroin. Though the authorities allow farmers to petition the federal government to grow hemp, the Drug Enforcement Administration or D.E.A. has proven incredibly resistant to such licenses and for all intents and purposes the crop has remained illegal [ironically enough, however, the U.S. imports many hemp-related products from abroad]. >> Read the Full Article

New Emissions/Gas Mileage Standards

Once again, the EPA is tightening the fuel efficiency standards for autos and light trucks. It is also tightening the emissions limits that new vehicles will have to meet. This is, in general, a good thing since it will reduce gas consumption, and also reduce air pollutant emissions. Of course, not everyone is happy about this action. And the economic analysis of the cost/benefits seems to be overly optimistic. According to the EPA, the proposal supports efforts by states to reduce harmful levels of smog and soot and eases their ability to attain and maintain science-based national ambient air quality standards to protect public health, while also providing flexibilities for small businesses, including hardship provisions and additional lead time for compliance. EPA Acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe said "Today’s proposed standards – which will save thousands of lives and protect the most vulnerable -- are the next step in our work to protect public health and will provide the automotive industry with the certainty they need to offer the same car models in all 50 states." >> Read the Full Article

How RGGI is Growing Renewable Energy and Reducing GHGs

A new report demonstrates that emissions markets can increase renewable energy, decrease greenhouse gases (GHGs) and grow the economy. The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) is the first U.S. market-based regulatory program designed to reduce GHGs. RGGI is a cooperative effort among the states of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont to cap and reduce the power sector’s CO2 emissions. There are roughly 160 power plants covered by RGGI. Under the program, states sell emission allowances through auctions and invest the proceeds in consumer benefits including energy efficiency, renewable energy, and other clean energy technologies. In addition to spurring clean tech innovation and reducing GHGs, RGGI is creating green jobs. >> Read the Full Article

If you smoke, best to wait a bit after waking in the morning

Why do some smokers get cancer, and others don't. There are likely many factors such as genetics, exposure to environmental pollutants, immune system strength, and others. A new study by Penn State found that the sooner a person smokes a cigarette upon waking in the morning, the more likely he or she is to acquire lung or oral cancer. "We found that smokers who consume cigarettes immediately after waking have higher levels of NNAL -- a metabolite of the tobacco-specific carcinogen NNK -- in their blood than smokers who refrain from smoking a half hour or more after waking, regardless of how many cigarettes they smoke per day," said Steven Branstetter, assistant professor of biobehavioral health. According to Branstetter, other research has shown that NNK (4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-[3-pyridyl]-1-butanone) induces lung tumors in several rodent species. Levels of NNAL (4-(methylnitrosamnino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanol) in the blood can therefore predict lung cancer risk in rodents as well as in humans. In addition, NNAL levels are stable in smokers over time, and a single measurement can accurately reflect an individual's exposure. >> Read the Full Article

Giant landslides identified by seismic fingerprints

A new technique that can identify catastrophic landslides based on their seismic signals could one day lead to a global system for identifying regions at particular risk from this hazard. Giant landslides involve millions of tonnes of rock and debris moving downslope at speeds often above 110 miles per hour. Such events are rare, but, when they occur, the loss of life and damage to property can be enormous. >> Read the Full Article

Ancient Global Firestorm

When a big rock hits the Earth, it will cause a lot of damage. The asteroid sized rock that is believed to have killed off the dinosaurs is one extreme example. A new look at conditions after a Manhattan-sized asteroid slammed into a region of Mexico in the dinosaur days indicates the event could have triggered a global firestorm that would have burned every twig, bush and tree on Earth and led to the extinction of 80 percent of all Earth’s species, says a new University of Colorado Boulder study. Led by Douglas Robertson of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, or CIRES, the team used models that show the collision would have vaporized huge amounts of rock that were then blown high above Earth’s atmosphere. The re-entering ejected material would have heated the upper atmosphere enough to glow red for several hours at roughly 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit -- about the temperature of an oven broiler element -- killing every living thing not sheltered underground or underwater. >> Read the Full Article