ENN's editors summarize the most compelling environmental and sustainable economy stories of the week. In the news August 8th - 12th: Roundup leaves tadpoles belly up, Malaysia is lost in a haze, Australia sets its sights on test-tube sharks, Bush touts his new energy bill, and much more.
Top Ten Stories of the Week
Sustainable Economy News Roundup
EarthNews Radio Review
Guest Commentary: If I Could Have Written the Energy Bill...
The Week's Top Ten, by Carrie Schluter
In the news August 8th - 12th: Roundup leaves tadpoles belly up, Malaysia is lost in a haze, Australia sets its sights on test-tube sharks, Bush touts his new energy bill, and much more.
1. Roundup Is Killing Off Amphibians, Ecologist Says
You had to know that a chemical as effective at killing stubborn weeds as Roundup is has to be bad for fauna, as well. Now, new evidence shows that amphibians might be the canaries in the coal mine when it comes to the wider impact of Roundup.
2. Air Pollution Hits Emergency Level in Malaysian Port Town from Indonesian Forest Haze
All week, Kuala Lumpur has been socked in by a nasty haze caused by more than 300 forest fires in Indonesia. Giving rise to an air pollution index in excess of 500 (readings above 300 are considered hazardous), the haze reached crisis proportions late in the week.
3. Wildlife Moves to Stay Cool in a Warmer World
All over the world, wildlife species seem to be turning tail and running, flying, or swimming to cooler climes. From salmon turning up in the waters of the Arctic to warblers flying north to Canada, animals seem to be responding to global warming by seeking alternative habitats.
4. Bush Says New Energy Bill Vital to U.S. Economy
Widely decried by environmentalists as falling far short of ideal, the Bush administration's energy bill received some public words of support by the president, himself this week. Calling the bill "a critical first step," President Bush further stated, "What this energy bill is going to do, it's going to help keep momentum in the right direction."
5. Bird-Filled Emirates Wetlands Diminishing
A string of private villas scheduled to be built on an island in close proximity to the United Arab Emirates 1,500-acre, wildlife-rich Khor al-Beidah lagoon has environmentalists up in arms. According to local wildlife author Colin Richardson, the development could spell disaster for wildlife. "The birds don't have very much left. "It's a very important site. It has the highest density of winter migrants anywhere in eastern Arabia."
6. Scientists Crack DNA Code of Rice
For the first time, scientists have deciphered the genetic code of a crop plant: rice. Reported in the journal Nature, he news holds promise for helping to address world hunger. W. Richard McCombie, a leader on the project, said, "I would think this is going to help people find genes and probably enhance the crop in well under 10 years."
7. Alaska Sea Otters to Get U.S. Protection
Southwest Alaska sea otters are cute, playful, and newly listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The target of fur hunters nearly a century ago, the species rebounded from extinction once, but find themselves in jeopardy once again, with numbers across much of Alaska experiencing an unexplained decline in recent years.
8. EPA Proposing Radiation Exposure Limits at Yucca Mountain for One Million Years
What will the world look like in a million years? No one knows, but now one thing is certain: Radiation exposure near the proposed Yucca Mountain facility will not exceed 350 millirems. How relevant is that standard likely to be so far down the proverbial line? The EPA's Jeffrey Holmstead has an honest answer: "That's a pretty darn good question. ... We do the best job given all the science we have."
9. Poachers Massacre Protected Turtles on Mexico BeachA grisly discovery on Mexico's Escobilla beach: The remains of approximately 80 protected Olive Ridley sea turtles, bludgeoned and chopped up by poachers. The smallest of the sea turtle species, the Olive Ridley had been making a comeback recently, thanks to more aggressive anti-poaching methods.
10. Australia Seeks to Breed Test-Tube Sharks
Because gray nurse shark embryos practice "intrauterine cannibilism" -- they eat each other in utero -- the species' numbers have been on the decline, and protections in place since 1984. Australian scientists have a novel idea for how to approach the problem: artificially inseminating the animals and breeding them in test tubes.
Sustainable Economy News Roundup, by Paul Geary
This week on ENN's Sustainable Economy channel we presented a number of examples of the maturation of the sustainable economy movement in business. It's a good sign in the long term, but the rapid growth of environment friendly businesses and industry poses new challenges:
You know a renewable energy source is maturing when one of the big boys gets involved:
A number of varied businesses are creating interesting products in industries that you wouldn't expect, and making products and using technologies you wouldn't expect:
Pet Ecology Brands, Inc. Announces Retail Distribution of Earth-Friendly Cat Litter
Used Boxes Unfold Booming Business
Carbonfund.org Makes it Possible to Offset Business, Home and Travel Climate Footprint
Scrapped Locomotive Engines Power Roanoke Business
Some innovations likewise are coming from people and places you wouldn't expect:
Finally, governments and government agencies continue to do their part to contribute to the environment, as well as the business environment:
Texas Approves Green Plus as Alternative Formulation Solution for Texas Low Emission Diesel
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center Utilizes Fire to Selectively Control King Ranch Bluestem Grass
Governor Torres Invites SSWM to Open Office in Puebla
New Federal Law Offers Tax Credits for Energy-Efficient Purchases
Be sure to check ENN regularly to get the latest news about business and the environment. You can find it here on ENN on our Sustainable Economy News page.
EarthNews Radio Review, by Paul Geary
This week on EarthNews Radio, Jerry Kay:
Another interview with Urban Age brought you innovative methods by which environmentalists are reaching governments, non-governmental organizations, dovetailing with an interview about conservationists' access to capital:
Also, we learned more about interesting members of the animal world; their defenses, and their... pellets:
EarthNews Radio threw in a little astronomy:
And a feature about environmentally friendly cotton:
Finally, the Road to Detroit Campaign keeps rolling:
Visit EarthNews Radio's home here at ENN often. Jerry Kay interviews environmentalists, and scientists, and activists on a wide variety of topics. You can find it at ENN Radio Network.
If I Could Have Written the Energy Bill... -- An ENN Guest Commentary
by Ken Bossong, SUN DAY Campaign
Rising energy imports, climate change, and reliance on polluting fossilfuel and nuclear technologies all threaten the nation's economy, nationalsecurity, public health, and the environment. None of these problems willgo away. None will be solved by the new energy bill. In fact, all maywell be made worse by it.
Therefore, now that President Bush has signed the Energy Policy Act of2005, it is time for Congress to pass legislation that actually addressesthe nation's energy needs, which include:
a.) reducing greenhouse gas emissions to a level consistent with aworld-wide goal of global climate stabilization (e.g., curbing U.S. CO2emissions by 60-80% from current levels by mid-century);
b.) eliminating U.S. imports of oil and natural gas (now 58% and 15%respectively) as well as uranium;
c.) phasing out the current generation of nuclear power; and
d.) decreasing energy waste and making a transition to sustainable,environmentally safer renewable energy sources.
More specifically, it is economically and technically feasible to actuallyreduce total domestic energy use by 20% over the next two decades whilemeeting a fifth of the nation's energy needs with renewables. By 2050,total energy use could actually be cut by 40% or more from today's levelswith at least half of U.S. energy supply coming from renewable sources. Such a scenario would also allow for greenhouse gas emissions to be cut byover 60%.
Such an energy future would simultaneously create new domestic jobs andbusinesses, improve national security and the economy, and enhance theenvironment and public health.
However, it would require legislative enactment of a politically ambitiousagenda that would probably include most of the following components, manyof which Congress left on the cutting room floor as it finalized theenergy bill:
By 2025, fuel economy standards for cars and trucks should be at leastdouble what they are today, beginning with a 50% increase in fuel economyfor new vehicles by the year 2015.
By 2025, total annual person-miles traveled by automobile and truck shouldbe at levels no higher than today through expansion of mass transit,better land use planning, and telecommuting.
By 2025, no less than 25 percent of the nation's liquid transportationfuels should be provided, or displaced, by renewable sources, includingrenewably-generated hydrogen.
By 2025, no less than 25 percent of the nation's electricity should begenerated by renewable energy sources and with a federal mandate toincrease that amount by at least one percent/year thereafter.
By 2025, state and/or federal standards should mandate that the energyefficiency of appliances, motors, and lighting should be improved by noless than 20 percent as measured on a total fuel cycle basis.
By 2025, state and/or federal standards should mandate that 20 percent ofall new buildings must be zero energy buildings (moving towards a goal ofall new buildings being zero energy by 2050), using a combination ofefficient design and clean on-site energy production;
By 2025, energy use in the electricity sector should be reduced by atleast 10 percent through the use of clean distributed generation such ascombined heat & power, district energy, fuel cells, and improved energystorage and transmission technologies.
In addition, energy efficiency resource standards for electric and gasutilities should be established with a target savings of at least onepercent of annual sales each year, on an incremental basis, such thatsavings build on previous years' impacts.
Expansion of renewable energy, energy efficiency and clean distributedgeneration technologies should be promoted through nationalinterconnection standards (i.e., net metering and transmission accessreforms), production and investment tax incentives, governmentprocurement, updated resource assessment, and state and local planningprograms.
Annual federal funding for the research, development, and deployment ofenergy efficient and renewable energy technologies should be at leastdoubled over the next five years and expanded to no less than five timescurrent levels by 2025.
Funding to support sustainable energy budget outlays and tax incentives,as well as to alleviate low-income consumer impacts, should be drawn froma mix of gradually increased dedicated taxes on carbon-based fuels, energyimports, and fossil fuel leases on federal lands.
Any new coal-based power plants should be required to achieve energyefficiency and environmental performance equal to, or better than, thebest-available Integrated Combined Cycle Coal Gasification technology, andmust include full and permanent carbon capture and sequestration.
Finally, licenses for existing nuclear power plants should not be renewedor extended and federal nuclear funds should be directed towards plantdecommissioning and waste clean-up, storage & disposal
Such a legislative agenda would require a level of political leadershipand vision rarely displayed by Congress. However, playing ostrich andtrying to duck the tough energy problems facing the United States will notmake them go away. Now that President Bush has signed Energy Policy Actof 2005 it is time for Congress to return to the drawing board and getserious about producing legislation that actually addresses the nation'senergy needs.
Photo: A Western Meadowlark. Credit: John and Karen Hollingsworth/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.