• Tar Sands Update

    You might not know this, but Canada has oil reserves of 170 billion barrels, more than Iran and Nigeria combined. This fact is not widely known since much of that oil has been considered "not economically recoverable," lying deep underground in a mixture of bitumen, a thick, tarry substance, sand and water known as oil sands or tar sands. Development of these tar sands, located near the Athabasca River, by Suncor Energy, began in the 1960s but has been conducted at a relatively small scale because of the costs involved. Only recently, with declining supplies and increasing prices have attempts begun to try and ramp up production, especially after PetroChina acquired a 60 percent interest in two major wells in Alberta in 2009. This was followed in 2010 by Sinopec paying $4.65 billion for a 9 percent stake in Syncrude Canada Ltd. Chinese investors find this resource to be attractive, since Canada is considered to be a low political risk when compared with, say, the Middle East. As of 2010, the three biggest of many players were Syncrude Canada, Suncor, and Albian Sands, a joint venture of Chevron, Shell Canada and Marathon Oil. BP also has a substantial stake, with a 75 percent interest in Terre de Grace, which it also operates. >> Read the Full Article
  • Fungal disease threat seen increasing

    Fungal diseases are a major threat not just to wild plants and animals, but to us. A new Nature paper shows we're already heading for huge fungal damage to vital crops and ecosystems over the coming decades. If we don't do more to stop these diseases' spread, their impact could be devastating. Fungi already destroy at least 125 million tonnes a year of rice, wheat, maize and potatoes and soybeans, worth $60 billion. Researchers estimate that in 2009-10, this lost food could have fed some 8.5 per cent of the world's people. And this is just the result of persistent low-level infection; simultaneous epidemics in several major crops could mean billions starve. >> Read the Full Article
  • Pesticides in backyards implicated in Bee Colony die off

    The controversy over possible links between massive bee die-offs and agricultural pesticides has overshadowed another threat: the use of those same pesticides in backyards and gardens. Neonicotinoid pesticides are ubiquitous in everday consumer plant treatments, and may expose bees to far higher doses than those found on farms, where neonicotinoids used in seed coatings are already considered a major problem by many scientists. "It's amazing how much research is out there on seed treatments, and in a way thats' distracted everyone from what may be a bigger problem," said Mace Vaughan, pollinator program director at the Xerces society, an invertebrate conservation group. >> Read the Full Article
  • Forests and the Health of the Planet

    The health of our forests directly impacts the health of the planet. The importance of forests to the Earth’s ecosystems cannot be overstated. Research shows that forest die-offs are on the increase and this troubling trend is being linked to global warming. Heat and water stress associated with climate change are making forests vulnerable to insect attacks, fires and other problems. As reported in an October 2011 New York Times article, millions of acres of forests in the northern and central Rockies are dying. In Colorado, at least 15 percent of that state’s aspen forests are suffering due to a lack of water. The U.S. is not the only country where forests are succumbing to the effects of a warming climate, trees are also being impacted by climate change all around the globe. The evidence for global warming continues to mount with March 2012 being the warmest in recorded history in the U.S. and January to March 2012 being the warmest first quarter on record in the lower 48 states. This is but the most recent data corroborating an increasingly irrefutable body of evidence. >> Read the Full Article
  • Sunny Forecast for Solar Power

    The American solar industry more than doubled in megawatts last year, from 887 megawatts installed in 2010 to 1,855 megawatts installed in 2011. This growth represents enough solar energy to power over 350,000 homes! 2011 also marks the first time the U.S. solar market has topped one gigawatt (1,000 MW) in a single year. Many factors contributed to this growth. The cost of installing solar panels fell 20 percent last year due to lower component costs and improved installation efficiency. Expanded financing options and a shift toward larger systems nationwide also made solar more affordable. In addition the 1603 Treasury Program, which offered rebates for businesses that installed solar panels, ended Dec. 31, 2011. This looming deadline drove developers to commission projects before the end of the year. >> Read the Full Article
  • Sales of Volt and Hybrids Surge in March

    March turned out to be a big month for auto sales in the United States. Reuters reported that total vehicle sales were up 13 percent for the month, ending the best quarter in terms of total sales since 2008. The industry sees this as a sign of general economic recovery, but with high average gas prices prevailing at the pumps, hybrid cars and plug-in vehicles enjoyed a strong month, indicating fuel economy matters to many when making new car choices. >> Read the Full Article
  • Do protected areas for wildlife really work?

    Can national parks and marine protected areas safeguard endangered wildlife against the growing pressures of population growth and climate change? Designated a national park in 1778 but safeguarded unofficially since the 13th century, the world's oldest protected area is Mongolia’s sacred Bogd Khan Mountain, overlooking Ulan Bator. The Emperor of Manchur’s 18th-century edict was designed to prevent mortals from desecrating the realms of the divine. Building was restricted, logging and hunting banned. >> Read the Full Article
  • Is that Pashmina cloned?

    The successful cloning of the unique but dwindling 'pashmina' goat, prized for its fine wool, has encouraged veterinary scientists to use similar methods to conserve other endangered animal species native to Himalayan Kashmir. When a team of veterinary scientists from the centre for animal biotechnology at the Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agriculture Science and Technology (SKUAST), Srinagar, cloned the pashmina goat, last month (March), it revived hopes for saving a species whose numbers have been declining. >> Read the Full Article
  • Laser "Un-printer" Wipes Paper Clean

    Let's talk about recycling. Despite our efforts to cut back on paper usage and production, the effects of forestry and emissions from recycling plants still heavily harm the environment. However, the paper production cycle could be changing now, thanks to lasers. Researchers at the University of Cambridge announced last week that they have discovered a way to remove toner ink from paper without damage using lasers. >> Read the Full Article
  • Plug-in Electric Cars had better early adoption rate than hybrids

    The failure to reach the sales targets for the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf has led to considerable finger pointing about so-far disappointing attempts to mass market plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs). PEVs have increasingly become fodder for politics as every misstep reinforces what opponents call their inevitable failure. But the real problem was in the original lofty expectations for PEV penetration by both the auto makers and the government, which were unreachable given the cost of the vehicles. As we've said all long, the government's projection of 1 million PEVs on US roads by 2015 was too aggressive given the short timeframe to get new vehicles to market and the nascent state of the technology . >> Read the Full Article