Archive for June 21st, 2009

Are Shredded Tires Polluting Our Playgrounds?
Photo: Mykl Roventine via Flickr

The EPA is reexamining whether crumb rubber, made from shredded tires, is safe for playground applications. Previously, the EPA had okayed shredded tires for civil engineering and public recreation projects, but pressure by the Public Employees for Environmental R…
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Are Shredded Tires Polluting Our Playgrounds?
Photo: Mykl Roventine via Flickr

The EPA is reexamining whether crumb rubber, made from shredded tires, is safe for playground applications. Previously, the EPA had okayed shredded tires for civil engineering and public recreation projects, but pressure by the Public Employees for Environmental R…
Visit the original post at: TreeHugger

Closed Car Dealership Finds New Life as an Art Gallery
Pete's Motors Dealership Made in the USA Invite
Image courtesy of artist, Elisabeth Subrin, Lost Tribes and Promised Lands, 2009

The saying should go, When the going gets tough… the tough show art. The sight of empty car lots is nothing new these days. The lack of sales during the recession has not been as easy affair for most dealerships. Many have succumb to the fate of closing their doors due to the practically nonexistent market for new cars….
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Obama Administration Suspends CHAMP Chemical Assessment Program
Image: Bubble Monster at Flickr, Audi insperation

Only a few months ago, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson announced that the U.S. Environmental Protection Administration would pick up the pace of the Chemicals Assessment and Management Program (CHAMP), partly in response to the barrage of activity in the EU under REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of CHemicals). Now the EPA has thrown Industry and Citizens into confusion with an announcement that all activity to screen and prioritize hazardous chemi…
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NOAA Forecast Predicts Large Dead Zone for Gulf of Mexico this Summer

A team of NOAA-supported scientists from the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, Louisiana State University, and the University of Michigan is forecasting that the “dead zone” off the coast of Louisiana and Texas in the Gulf of Mexico this summer could be one of the largest on record. The dead zone is an area in the Gulf of Mexico where seasonal oxygen levels drop too low to support most life in bottom and near-bottom waters.

Dead zone visualization.
Dead zone visualization. Credit: NOAA. Click to enlarge.

Scientists are predicting the area could measure between 7,450 and 8,456 square miles, or an area roughly the size of New Jersey. However, additional flooding of the Mississippi River since May may result in a larger dead zone. The largest one on record occurred in 2002, measuring 8,484 square miles.

Dead zones are caused by nutrient runoff, principally from agricultural activity, which stimulates an overgrowth of algae that sinks, decomposes, and consumes most of the life-giving oxygen supply in the water.

The dead zone size was predicted after researchers observed large amounts of nitrogen feeding into the Gulf from the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers. The rivers experienced heavy water flows in April and May that were 11% above average.

The high water volume flows coupled with nearly triple the nitrogen concentrations in these rivers over the past 50 years from human activities has led to a dramatic increase in the size of the dead zone

—Gene Turner, Ph.D., a lead forecast modeler from Louisiana State University

This hypoxic, or low-to-no oxygen area, is of particular concern because it threatens valuable commercial and recreational Gulf fisheries by destroying critical habitat.

NOAA has been funding investigations and forecast development for the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico since 1990 and currently oversees the two national hypoxia programs authorized by the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act. Data from the US Geological Survey on river flow and nutrient concentrations this spring was critical information required by the models to produce the forecasts.

An announcement of the official size of the 2009 hypoxic zone, which is an annual requirement of the Gulf of Mexico Task Force Action Plan, will follow a NOAA-supported monitoring survey led by the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium on 18-26 July.

In addition, NOAA’s Southeast Area Monitoring and Assessment Program currently is providing near real-time data on the hypoxic zone during a five-week NOAA Fisheries Service summer fish survey in the northern Gulf of Mexico between 8 June and 18 July.

The information is available on the NOAA’s Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia Watch Web page. The objective of Hypoxia Watch is to develop new near-real-time data and map products using shipboard measurements of bottom-dissolved oxygen and to disseminate them over the Internet. These products form the basis for summertime advisories to fishermen in the North-central Gulf of Mexico, indicating where fish and other living marine resources may not be found due to low or non-existent oxygen levels.

Visit the original post at: Transportation News

Total US Vehicle Miles Traveled in April Increases Slightly Year-on-Year

Travel on all roads and streets in the US in April 2009 increased by 0.6% to an estimated 249.5 billion miles, up 1.4 billion vehicle miles from April 2008, according to the latest Traffic Volume Trends report from the Federal Highway Administration.

Total US Vehicle Miles Traveled by month. Data: FHA. Click to enlarge.

Cumulative travel for 2009 is down by 1.1% (-10.0 billion vehicle miles), compared to the same period in 2008.

The West saw the largest increase in vehicle travel on all roads (+1.3% to 55.1 billion miles), followed by the South Gulf region (+0.8% to 49.4 billion miles) and the South Atlantic (+0.5% to 53.3 billion miles). The North Central states had a 0.1% increase (to 55.1 billion miles) and the Northeast was flat with 0% (36.6 billion miles).

Moving 12-month total for all roads. Source: FHA. Click to enlarge.

The results marked the first increase in the moving 12-month total for all roads since the protracted decline began in November 2007, at which point the total was 3.038 trillion miles.

The moving 12 month total for April 2009 was 2.915 trillion miles, up 0.03% from March 2009.

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Carbon Sciences Increases Functional Life of Enzymes in CO2-to-Fuel Process

Carbon Sciences, Inc., the developer of a technology to recycle carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions into gasoline and other fuels, has increased the functional life of key enzymes used in the company’s system. The technology uses a multi-step biocatalytic process that transforms CO2 into low-carbon hydrocarbons (C1 to C3) for subsequent upgrading into higher-carbon fuels such as gasoline and jet fuel. (Earlier post.)

The new biocatalyst development not only accelerates the pace of commercialization, but also will result in lower cost fuel, according to the company.

In most biocatalytic processes, the key component is the active organic enzymes that catalyze specific reactions. Enzymes are expensive, and the commercial viability of any biocatalytic process is dependent on the number of cycles the enzymes can perform before they must be replaced. This is known in the industry as the Total Turnover Number (TTN) of a biocatalytic process.

A higher process TTN means that more products can be produced with the same fixed cost of enzymes, thereby lowering the cost per unit of product. For Carbon Sciences, a higher TTN in its biocatalytic CO2 to fuel process directly translates to a lower cost per gallon of gasoline and other fuels.

We continue to increase the TTN of our CO2 to fuel process through a proprietary technology that encapsulates the enzymes in a protective shell. This protective shell significantly increases the activity and functional life of the enzymes. Our enzyme encapsulation technology gives us great confidence in the cost effectiveness of our CO2 to fuel process and moves us closer to commercial viability. The implication of a significantly higher TTN is profound.

—Dr. Naveed Aslam, Carbon Sciences’ chief technology officer

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Autoliv Suggests Autonomous Braking System Could Eliminate 40% of Pedestrian Fatalities

Approximately 40% of the thousands of pedestrians that die every year and 25% of the severe pedestrian injuries could be avoided if cars had pedestrian detection systems with automatic braking, according to a paper presented by Autoliv Inc. at the international conference Enhanced Safety of Vehicle (ESV) in Stuttgart, Germany.

Autoliv is a leading global developer and manufacturer of automotive safety systems for all major automotive manufacturers.

Approximately half of the fatally and one third of the severely injured pedestrians are visible to the driver prior to impact but the driver does not brake or only brakes marginally, according to German accident data (GIDAS). Consequently, a pedestrian detection system that would autonomously activate the vehicle brakes one second prior to predicted impact, would have the potential to reduce pedestrian fatalities and injuries.

Such a system would, according to the study, reduce the impact speed by 41% and completely eliminate 15% of pedestrian accidents. If these findings can be extended beyond German accident data, a potential reduction exists of almost 1,500 pedestrian fatalities out of the total 3,683 pedestrian fatalities during 2007 in the EU-14 countries according ERSO (European Road Safety Observatory).

Another contribution of an autonomous braking system is that the impact speed can also be reduced in those cases where the driver activates the brakes as the duration of the braking can be doubled to 1.4 seconds. Various restrictions will limit the effectiveness in real-life traffic, but the results highlight the large potential to reduce fatal and severe pedestrian injuries with an autonomous braking system.

The autonomous braking system consists of an extension of the brake assist system that would autonomously activate the vehicles brakes when a signal is provided by a sensor system. Such a sensor could be based on the infrared technology that Autoliv developed for the night vision system of the new BMW 7-series. The system gives the driver a warning to provide him or her approximately four seconds to react when the pedestrian is at risk of being hit or is entering the risk-zone. The new ESV-paper highlights the substantial benefits further development of this technology could bring.

We see a great potential in our infrared-recognition system not only for making driving at night safer and more comfortable but also as a key component in a future pedestrian protection system. With more applications the volumes will rise which will rend the current relatively expensive infrared technology more affordable, making the technology available for ever more vehicle buyers.

—Steve Fredin, Autoliv’s Vice President Engineering

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Walnut Creek Installs 3 Electric Vehicle Charging Stations
Walnut Creek Installs 3 Electric Vehicle Charging Stations

Coulomb Technologies has taken the initiative to install their ChargePoint™ Networked Charging Stations for electric vehicles in Walnut Creek, CA. Walnut Creek has got the distinction of becoming the third Bay Area city to deploy charging station. Coulomb’s charging stations were officially inaugurated on Tuesday, June 9, 2009 at the Locust Street Garage. The [...]
Posted in: Electric Cars, Industry, Transportation

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German test with certified biodiesel shows great results

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A recent test in Germany attempted to test claims by Neste that its biodiesel is sustainable. The tests involved 14 Daimler vehicles, DHL, the German Post, OMV and the Stuttgart bus company. The test involved about one million kilometers driven with NExBTL biodiesel that were produced from certified palm oil. The results stated that this fuel helped reduce NOx by 15 percent, compared to regular diesel, as well as CO2 emissions by 60 percent. The test measured each step in the production chain to assess its environmental efficiency and found that certified biofuels are the way to go, as there is no point in using biofuels that were produced with too many pesticides or old and polluting machinery.

[Source: Auto News]

German test with certified biodiesel shows great results originally appeared on AutoblogGreen on Sun, 21 Jun 2009 08:20:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Visit the original post at: Biofuel News

Canada’s Prairie Provinces: Drought; And A Spring Without Green
canada 2 month standard precipitation index image
2-Month Standardized Precipitation Index Map Of Canada: yellow/red/brown/yellow colors indicate least precipitation over period. Canada Drought Watch.

While long and severe drought in the US State of Georgia is officially “over”, and water restrictions going “off” across the US Southeast, the Canadian prairie provinces (Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, as pictured) are suffering an historic drought that may have serious impacts on farmers and food production. The <a href=”http://www.theglobea…
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Watershed: The Burdens of Our Consumption of Bottled Water

bottle2As a follow up to last year’s “Urban Tumbleweeds” art installation at Burning Man, this past weekend, as a part of FIGMENT, New York based design studio MSLK has assembled a new eco-art project entitled Watershed.

Watershed is composed of 1,500 plastic water bottles (the number of bottles consumed every second in the United States), strung from a tree—perhaps arranged symbolically pointing to our consumption’s burden on the earth.

bottlesThe downsides to bottled water have been well documented; from the energy and resources required to producing and transporting the bottles, to the pollution and waste …

Visit the original post at: Environment News

Focus on Innovators, Not Polluters, for Climate Solutions

congress The Waxman-Markey bill trickling its way through Congress is both historic and problematic. As loopholes are inserted, and interests appeased, the bill will inevitably get watered down to something that is both more passable, and less effective.

While the eventual result may be the best we can get out of this Congress, do we risk missing the forest for the trees by framing the debate around the “problem” of carbon?

It’s time to focus on science of solutions, instead of the politics of pollution.

The “Copenhagen Call” recently signed by 500 global business leaders calls for a “science-based approach …

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Outsourcing Unrest

Outsourcing Unrest

Published in The Guardian 9 June 2009.

The 300 year colonial adventure is over at last, which is why Britain is in political crisis.

Why now? It’s not as if this is the first time our representatives have been caught out. The history of governments in all countries is the history of scandal, as those who rise to the top are generally the most ambitious, ruthless and unscrupulous people politics can produce. Pushing their own interests to the limit, they teeter perennially on the brink of disgrace, except when they fly clean over the edge. So why does the …

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