Archive for October 28th, 2009

Bright Doling Out Advice to Army, Automakers


Bright Automotive, best known for its 100-mpg IDEA plug-in utility van, announced a new $1.4 million contract with the U.S. Army to build a plug-in hybrid for non-combat use.  The PHEV will be designed to cut Army fuel consumption as well as to demonstrate how an EV could potentially feed power back to the grid.  The project is part of an Army initiative to explore how bases could eventually run off-grid.

The Army contract isn’t the only way that Bright is lending its expertise these days.  The company has also launched eSolutions, a consulting program where they will provide automotive manufacturers knowledge on how to develop EVs.  The company will give guidance on design, engineering, energy storage, propulsion, conversion systems and how to green operations.

Bright is hoping these new endeavors will speed up EV development around the world.

via Autoblog Green


Visit the original post at: EcoGeek.org

Why We Get aflatoxin in Our Peanut Butter
Aflatoxin, found in mold on nuts and grains can cause liver cancer if consumed in large quantities. University California, Irvine researchers for the first time have discovered what triggers the toxin to form, which could lead to methods of limiting its production. Sheryl Tsai, lead author of a study appearing Oct. 22, in the journal Nature that reports the finding. Dr. Tsai is an associate professor of molecular biology & biochemistry, chemistry, and pharmaceutical sciences. “It’s shocking how profoundly these molds can affect public health,” said Dr. Tsai
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U.S. Public Still Unconvinced on Climate Change
Fewer U.S. citizens consider climate change to be a “serious threat” compared to two years ago, even as scientific evidence demonstrates that the problem has become increasingly severe, according to a recent nationwide public opinion poll.

The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press survey suggests that climate change campaigns are not adequately explaining the latest science to an audience that needs to reduce emissions substantially in order for the world to avoid the most damaging effects of global warming.
Visit the original post at: ENN: Business

U.S. Public Still Unconvinced on Climate Change
Fewer U.S. citizens consider climate change to be a “serious threat” compared to two years ago, even as scientific evidence demonstrates that the problem has become increasingly severe, according to a recent nationwide public opinion poll.

The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press survey suggests that climate change campaigns are not adequately explaining the latest science to an audience that needs to reduce emissions substantially in order for the world to avoid the most damaging effects of global warming.
Visit the original post at: ENN: Business

Global Climate Treaty "Impossible" this December
climate-treaty-impossible.jpg
Photo via Impact Lab

Now, I know this might seem like I’m lending my voice to the media’s climate treaty roller coaster ride here–but this is pretty bad (if unsurprising) news indeed. Yvo de Boer, the top UN climate negotiator (ie, the guy running the COP15 global climate talks), has publicly said that there’s no way that an agreement on a full-fledged global climate treaty can be reached this Decembe…
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In What World Can You Call Tetra Pak Green?
tetrapak packaging photo

Tetra Pak is a wonderful invention. The aseptic packaging can keep milk fresh for months without refrigeration. There are hundreds of products that are given extended shelf life with it. Perhaps it is better for certain foods than canning, like the tomatoes in Bonnie’s post, because it isn’t lined with epoxies made with BPA.

And goodness knows, they put on a show of being green. In Europe, they are now using FSC certified wood in them. They use renewable energy to recycle them in Scandi…
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Europe to Recommend €50 Billion in Annual Aid for Climate Change Adaptation in Poor Countries
500 euro note photo
photo: Matthias Ott via flickr.

The amount of aid that developing nations are to receive to help with adapting to climate change has been a long-running point of contention between poor nations (who say they deserve more) and the rich (who haven’t presented it). Well, The Guardian reports that later this week European heads of st…
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Ecuador Moves Forward with Plan to Not Drill the Amazon in Exchange of Funds
©Lou Dematteis, Crude Reflections
A kid stands on pipes of previous oil extractions in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Photo: Lou Dematteis for the Crude Reflections book.

We spoke about this campaign being in the making before, and about a presentation of it a month ago at the UN, but now it’s a fact: Ecu…
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Global Warming Could Create a Legion of ‘Climate Terrorists’
climate change terrorists photo
Photo via Pat Dollard

Scientists predict that climate change will exacerbate many of the world’s continuing troubles–food shortages, poverty, lack of water, spread of infectious diseases, and so on. And many have already suggested that strained resources and migration caused by global warming could eventually lead to wars; maybe even a wo…
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The Brazilian Connection – Are You In?
map brazil image
Map of Brazil. Image credit:Lonely Planet

Last week I was in Sao Paulo, Brazil, launching the Portuguese edition of Plan B 4.0, published by Virtu Editora e Productora Ltda.

But Plan B is not just a book in Brazil. It is a plan of action. In August, Plan B was the focus of the 2020 Climate Campaign, an initiative of the State of the World Forum, which was held in Belo Horizonte in the state of Minas Gerais. Two of us from <a href=”http://www.earth-po…
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Fixing the Land Use Flaw in Biofuels-Related Climate Policy: The Climate Doesn’t Negotiate
As America and the world move forward devising climate change and clean energy policy solutions, one thing we absolutely have to pay close attention to is what the science tells us are truly the sources of greenhouse gas emissions.  Then we have to cap those sources to the levels our best experts recommend if we are to avoid catastrophe — the latest recommendation being 350 ppm.

To ignore a massive source of emissions, such as those from land use change — which Grist’s Tom Philpott writes about here — is to invite failure, likely with extraordinarily expensive consequences.

To view the current policy problem we’re dealing with here more clearly, let’s use the figurative example of a discussion about eliminating a source of cancer-causing pollution from our drinking water supply.  If scientists told us that we had to get concentrations of the imaginary carcinogen, “Cheneyite”, down from current levels of 100 ppm to below 50 ppm to avoid causing a currently observed spike in testicular cancer, we’d have to first identify all the pathways by which Cheneyite enters the water supply.  We’d also have to make sure that each of these sources of Cheneyite are capped to the level needed to achieve an end result of at most 50 ppm in our drinking glass.

If the proposed legislation either doesn’t meet the 50 ppm recommendation (is a “compromise bill” that gets Cheneyite down to only 75 ppm), or ignores a key way that Cheneyite enters the drinking water supply (e.g., the bill fights to exclude the contributions of pig poop, at the urging of the agribusiness lobby), then we’re simply not going to solve the problem of Cheneyite-induced testicular cancer.  We’ll have spent untold millions of taxpayer dollars devising a solution that without a proper scientific foundation, will fail to achieve its goals. Testicular cancer levels will continue to skyrocket.  You can imagine the consequences…

The need to cap emissions from all sources of heat-trapping gases if we are to successfully stop climate change is similar.  To exclude the contribution of land use changes related to biofuel production (e.g., conversion of carbon-absorbing forest to industrial cropland) from climate policy is to invite failure, at a potentially catastrophic cost to humanity.

As Philpott details:

In a concise and devastating “policy forum” piece, a team of authors led by University of Minnesota researcher Tim Searchinger fingered a gaping defect in existing European and pending U.S. climate policy: biofuel gets treated as carbon-neutral, ignoring carbon emissions from land-use change. According to the paper,  the Kyoto Protocol, the European Union’s cap-and-trade law, and the final version of Waxman-Markey (the House climate bill that passed over the summer) all contain the “far-reaching but fixable flaw”:

[They] does not count CO2 emitted from tailpipes and smokestacks when bioenergy is being used, but it also does not count changes in emissions from land use when biomass for energy is harvested or grown. This accounting erroneously treats all bioenergy as carbon neutral regardless of the source of the biomass, which may cause large differences in net emissions. For example, the clearing of long-established forests to burn wood or to grow energy crops is counted as a 100% reduction in energy emissions despite causing large releases of carbon.

Or, as Searchinger put it to a Wall Street Journal reporter, “Literally, in theory, if you chopped up the Amazon, turned it into a parking lot, and burned the wood in a power plant, that would be treated as a carbon-emissions reduction strategy.”

The implications of the flaw are staggering: existing climate law, coupled with U.S. and European biofuel mandates, could lead to vast forest clearing—unleashing a gusher of greenhouse gases in the name of … averting climate change. That’s sort of like trying to save your sight by gouging out your eyes. The authors state:

One study estimated that a global CO2 target of 450 ppm under this accounting would cause bioenergy crops to expand to displace virtually all the world’s natural forests and savannahs by 2065, releasing up to 37 gigatons (Gt) of CO2 per year (comparable to total human CO2 emissions today). Another study predicts that, based solely on economic considerations, bioenergy could displace 59% of the world’s natural forest cover and release an additional 9 Gt of CO2 per year to achieve a 50% “cut” in greenhouse gases by 2050. The reason: When bioenergy from any biomass is counted as carbon neutral, economics favor large-scale land conversion for bioenergy regardless of the actual net emissions. [Emphasis added.]

It should be noted that this “flaw” in U.S. climate policy is no accident. House Ag committee chair Collin Peterson fought like a pitbull to enshrine it in Waxman-Markey. To the agribusiness lobby Pererson represents, tarnishing the good name of ethanol is tantamount to setting fire to a Bible during Sunday school.

Philpott also pointed out other dangers posed by a climate policy that does not intelligently think through how best to use biofuels to achieve our emissions-reducing goals.

Another article in the same Science issue explores another massive problem with biofuels: water scarcity. As the author puts it: “A widespread shift toward biofuels could pinch water supplies and worsen water pollution. In short, an increased reliance on biofuel trades an oil problem for a water problem.” (Emphasis added.)  According to the author, it takes between 90 and 190 liters of water to extract a kilowat-hour worth of oil. To get the same amount of energy from corn-based ethanol? Try 2.2 and 8.6 million liters of water. Ouch.

The bottom line here in climate policymaking is that we need to look at what the best available science tells us about all the potential solutions — not only at what levels we need to implement them to achieve our goals (e.g. to get CO2 levels back down to 350 ppm), but also what the unintended consequences might be for a particular proposed solution (like corn-based ethanol).

If we happen to ignore — for political reasons — a major source of emissions like land use change as Philpott describes above, it’s not like Mother Nature and Sister Climate are going to negotiate with us and say, “OK, fine, we’ll stop the warming-induced glacial melt and sea level rise and spare your agricultural and drinking water supplies — and throw in your coastal cities — if you can cap your emissions at 450 ppm”.

We ignore our best experts at our peril.  Unlike Congress, the climate doesn’t compromise.

Visit the original post at: Conservation Value Notes

Climate bill pitched as national security issue

The U.S. military airfield on Diego Garcia, an island in the Indian Ocean, is one of many areas vulnerable to rising seas.Backers of a climate bill in Congress hope that national security dangers will draw in reluctant Republicans who have denounced the bill as an energy tax and jobs killer.

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Visit the original post at: MSNBC.com: Environment

Only One-Sixth of European Retailers Showing Sustainable Palm Oil Progress
oil palm fruit
photo: fitri agung via flickr.?

Back in the spring WWF said that they found that while plenty of companies had committed to using sustainable palm oil, only a tiny percentage of the available oil was actually being purchased and they would start outing companies not living up to their commitments. Well, the <a href=”http://asset…
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Only One-Sixth of European Retailers Showing Sustainable Palm Oil Progress
oil palm fruit
photo: fitri agung via flickr.?

Back in the spring WWF said that they found that while plenty of companies had committed to using sustainable palm oil, only a tiny percentage of the available oil was actually being purchased and they would start outing companies not living up to their commitments. Well, the <a href=”http://asset…
Visit the original post at: TreeHugger