Mar 27, 2015

EPA Awards Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Grants to Reduce Runoff that Contributes to Algal Blooms (IL, IN, MI, MN, OH, WI)

U.S. EPA News-- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced the award of 14 Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grants totaling over $17 million to fund projects that will improve Great Lakes water quality by preventing phosphorus runoff and soil erosion that contribute to algal blooms

Mar 26, 2015

47% of American Households Have No Savings

Business InsiderThis could be the scariest chart in the world, from Deutsche Bank’s Torsten Sløk. Nearly half of American households don’t save any of their money.

If it isn’t obvious, this has a broad range of implications. People who don’t save won’t have any buffer should the economy turn and they lose their jobs. Longer term, people who don’t save won’t have the capacity to retire.

Screen Shot 2015 03 24 at 9.45.47 AM

Fatal Car Crashes Involving Pot Use Have Tripled in U.S. with legalization of marijuana

(HealthDay News By Dennis Thompson) -- The legalization of marijuana is an idea that is gaining momentum in the United States, but there may be a dark side to pot becoming more commonplace, a new study suggests.

Fatal crashes involving marijuana use tripled during the previous decade, fueling some of the overall increase in drugged-driving traffic deaths, researchers from Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health report.

"Currently, one of nine drivers involved in fatal crashes would test positive for marijuana," said co-author Dr. Guohua Li, director of the Center for Injury Epidemiology and Prevention at Columbia. "If this trend continues, in five or six years non-alcohol drugs will overtake alcohol to become the most common substance involved in deaths related to impaired driving."

The research team drew its conclusions from crash statistics from six states that routinely perform toxicology tests on drivers involved in fatal car wrecks -- California, Hawaii, Illinois, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and West Virginia. The statistics included more than 23,500 drivers who died within one hour of a crash between 1999 and 2010.

Alcohol contributed to about the same percentage of traffic fatalities throughout the decade, about 40 percent, Li said.

But drugs played an increasingly prevalent role in fatal crashes, the researchers found. Drugged driving accounted for more than 28 percent of traffic deaths in 2010, up from more than 16 percent in 1999.

Marijuana proved to be the main drug involved in the increase, contributing to 12 percent of 2010 crashes compared with 4 percent in 1999.

In an endnote to the study, the researchers pointed to several limitations with the research. One is that marijuana can be detected in the blood up to one week after use. And, therefore, the researchers said, "the prevalence of nonalcohol drugs reported in this study should be interpreted as an indicator of drug use, not necessarily a measurement of drug impairment."

The study authors also noted that the combined use of alcohol and marijuana dramatically increases a driver's risk of death.

"If a driver is under the influence of alcohol, their risk of a fatal crash is 13 times higher than the risk of the driver who is not under the influence of alcohol," Li said. "But if the driver is under the influence of both alcohol and marijuana, their risk increases to 24 times that of a sober person."

The researchers found that the increase in marijuana use occurred across all age groups and in both sexes. Their findings were published online Jan. 29 in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Marijuana impairs driving in much the same way that alcohol does, explained Jonathan Adkins, deputy executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association. It impairs judgment, affects vision and makes a person more distractible and more likely to take risks while driving.

"This study shows an alarming increase in driving under the influence of drugs and, in particular, it shows an increase in driving under the influence of both alcohol and drugs," said Jan Withers, national president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.


Read on at http://consumer.healthday.com/public-health-information-30/marijuana-news-759/fatal-car-crashes-involving-pot-use-have-tripled-in-u-s-study-684515.html

Mar 25, 2015

Steve Wozniak Now Afraid of AI Too, Just Like Elon Musk

SlashdotSteve Wozniak maintained for a long time that true AI is relegated to the realm of science fiction. But recent advances in quantum computing have him reconsidering his stance. Just like Elon Musk, he is now worried about what this development will mean for humanityWill this kind of fear actually engender the dangers that these titans of industry fear? Will Steve Wozniak draw the same conclusion and invest in quantum comuting to keep an eye on the development? One of the bloggers in the field thinks that would be a logical step to take. If you can't beat'em, and the quantum AI is coming, you should at least try to steer the outcome.
Woz actually seems more ambivalent than afraid, though: in the interview linked, he says "I hope [AI-enabling quantum computing] does come, and we should pursue it because it is about scientific exploring." "But in the end we just may have created the species that is above us."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Mar 23, 2015

California staves off water crisis with $1bn emergency drought relief

The Golden State will get a $1 billion package to provide immediate relief to try and stem future water problems. Officials assure the population that they will not run out of water completely as the state enters its fourth year of drought.

On Thursday state governor Jerry Brown and a bipartisan group of state lawmakers announced a one billion dollar package to provide immediate relief to try and stem future problems.

"This is a struggle, something we're going to have to live with. For how long we're not sure," said Brown during a press conference.

Of the $1 billion in emergency aid, $660 million of that is for flood prevention, which Brown explained is linked, as they are both related to climate change.

The emergency funding legislation comes just two days after a raft of other measures designed to limit water use across California. Watering lawns and gardens will be limited to two days a week and restaurants will only be able to offer tap water on request.

"We have been in multiyear droughts and extended dry periods a number of times in the past, and we will be in the future," said Ted Thomas, a spokesman for the California Department of Water Resources, as cited by the LA Times

"In periods like this there will be shortages, of course, but the state as a whole is not going to run dry in a year or two years."

The new regulations do not really ask much of residents and Jay Famiglietti, a senior water scientist from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, believes that water should be rationed.

"Because of the severity of the situation, I do think the public is ready for it," he said, as quoted by Time magazine.

Charles Stringer, chair of the Regional Water Board in Southern California, told Time magazine that much more needs to be done.

"We're trying to get where we need to go without too much pain and sacrifice. But what the water experts and policy makers are saying with increasing urgency is that's not possible," he said.

It was also unclear, how the current regulations would be enforced, without the manpower to do it.

In a recent poll 94 percent of residents said that they thought the drought was "serious" and yet experts insist that California is not in danger of running out of water in the next two years.

"We have been in multiyear droughts and extended dry periods a number of times in the past, and we will be in the future. In periods like this there will be shortages, of course, but the state as a whole is not going to run dry in a year or two years," Ted Thomas, a spokesman for the California Department of Water Resources, told the LA Times.

But Famiglietti does not agree and believes state reservoirs have only about a year's water supply left and that groundwater reserves are already depleted.

Please continue reading from: 

http://rt.com/usa/242745-california-drought-emergency-relief/

Five ways to celebrate World Water Day...everyday

Sunday was World Water Day, a United Nations initiative to celebrate clean water and bring attention to those who don't have enough of it. A new report released ahead of World Water Day warns about a looming shortage, and centers on this year's theme: water and sustainable development. 
Please continue reading from: Environmental Health News

California staring at decline in hydro-power due to drought.

California is staring at a massive decline in the hydro-power as the state enters fourth year of drought, claimed as an impact of climate change by many. After the scarcity of water for crops and public use, issues for the hydropower sector will be difficult for the state to manage. 
Please continue reading from: Environmental Health News

WHO study says Roundup probasbly causes cancer

Guardian - Roundup, the world's most widely used weedkiller, "probably" causes cancer, the World Health Organization  has said. The International Agency for Research on Cancer – WHO's cancer agency – said that glyphosate, the active ingredient in the herbicide made by agriculture company Monsanto, was "classified as probably carcinogenic to humans".

It also said there was "limited evidence" that glyphosate was carcinogenic in humans for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Monsanto, the world's largest seed company, said scientific data did not support the conclusions and called on WHO to hold an urgent meeting to explain the findings. "We don't know how IARC could reach a conclusion that is such a dramatic departure from the conclusion reached by all regulatory agencies around the globe," said Philip Miller, Monsanto's vice-president of global regulatory affairs. Advertisement

Concerns about glyphosate on food have been widely debated in the US recently, and contributed to the passage in Vermont last year of the country's first mandatory labelling law for genetically modified food.

The US government considers the herbicide to be safe. In 2013, Monsanto requested and received approval from the US Environmental Protection Agency for increased tolerance levels for glyphosate.
Please continue reading from: 
http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/mar/21/roundup-cancer-who-glyphosate-

China and US molten salt nuclear reactor cooperation

Next Big Future
A Cooperative Research and Development Agreement, or CRADA, between ORNL and SINAP focuses on accelerating scientific understanding and technical development of salt-cooled reactors, specifically fluoride salt-cooled high-temperature reactors, or FHRs. The project will draw on ORNL's expertise in fuels, materials, instrumentation and controls, design concepts, and modeling and simulation for advanced reactors, as well as the lab's experience in the design, construction and operation of the Molten Salt Reactor Experiment, the only molten salt reactor ever built.

The Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) has provided resources for research, technology development, design, and construction of an FHR test reactor in China. This initial test reactor will have a maximum thermal power of 10 megawatts. A second, 100-megawatt test reactor is also planned. Both FHR test reactors will use low-enrichment uranium fuel.

FHRs are an emerging class of salt-cooled reactors that feature low-pressure liquid fluoride salt cooling and solid coated particle fuel. This design provides a high-temperature power cycle that improves efficiency and a passive safety system designed to handle potential accident conditions without human intervention. FHRs have the potential to economically and reliably produce large quantities of carbon-free energy (both electrical and thermal), but technical challenges remain.

China's timeline was presented in 2013.


Berkeley and others have FHR reactor designs

There was a Jan, 2014 Current Status of the UCB PB-FHR Mark-1 Commercial Prototype Design Effort presentation

Current FHR Development Efforts
• DOE Integrated Research Project (IRP) – Collaborative university effort with MIT, UCB, and UW – Includes commercialization strategy, commercial prototype and test reactor pre-conceptual design effort, and assorted technology development efforts
• Oak Ridge National Laboratory – Ongoing FHR development work on technology roadmap and reactor design (plate fuel)
• ANS Standards Committee 20.1 – Currently developing FHR-specific GDCs and design standards
• Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics (SINAP) – Currently developing FHR and MSR technology – 10 MW FHR test reactor deployment planned for 2017


Read more »

Mar 21, 2015

EPA awards $2.5 million to Arizona to improve surface water quality

SAN FRANCISCO – The Environmental Protection Agency awarded $2.5 million to the State of Arizona for projects to help restore water quality in the state's polluted water bodies. With an additional $1.6 million leveraged by the state for these activities, more than $4 million is available this ... Please continue reading from: U.S. EPA News

Mar 20, 2015

How a pesticide loophole increased cancer risk at a California school

By

This is Rio Mesa High School in seaside Oxnard, California.

La Escuela Secundaria Río Mesa en Oxnard, California, está rodeada por campos de fresas por los cuatro costados.

Credit: Sam Hodgson for Reveal

Beautiful, isn’t it?

Here’s what happens when you overlay state pesticide data on a map of the school.

rio_mesa_chem_concern1

Those are strawberry fields that line Rio Mesa on all four sides. And strawberry growers are prolific users of hard-to-control pesticides. That means that 2,100 students and teachers spend their school day surrounded by fields treated with heavy amounts of some of the most dangerous pesticides in use.

Growers in the fields in front of the school, for example, used 770,300 pounds of the riskiest pesticides around – what public health officials call “chemicals of concern” – over the past decade, according to state data that we mapped.

This worries Ventura County Supervisor John Zaragoza. The Oxnard official is calling for a county investigation into pesticide use around Rio Mesa after our story revealed a loophole created by the state’s pesticide regulator put people in more than 100 communities statewide – including around Rio Mesa – at greater cancer risk.

“I think it is important that we know what is being sprayed near our schools and homes and what effect it is going to have on our families,” the Ventura County Star quoted Zaragoza as saying.

He also wants to know what, if anything, the county can do about it since most pesticide regulation is done at the state level. A group of county officials is supposed to report back to the Board of Supervisors later this month with its findings.

Plenty of Zaragoza’s constituents have the same questions. Fortunately, we already have some of the answers. We spent many months compiling state pesticide data, combing through dense studies and talking to scientists who study the issue.

Rio Mesa isn’t alone. Many schools in the strawberry-growing centers of Ventura and Monterey counties are near or next to fields treated with these pesticides. But looking specifically at Rio Mesa helps illuminate the public health trade-offs that officials make so that growers can use these pesticides.

Here are some of the questions that Zaragoza is asking, and our best attempt at answering them.

Are students and teachers inhaling the pesticides?

Yes.

The school principal takes great pains to coordinate with growers to ensure that pesticides aren’t applied while students and teachers are in the school. But that only goes so far.

Strawberry growers rely on a class of pesticides known as fumigants. They are hard-to-control gases that get pumped deep into the soil. Inevitably, some of those gases rise up out of the earth and linger in the air, even when the fields are covered in plastic tarps.

Unbeknownst to the principal or teachers there, the state has had an air monitor at Rio Mesa for years. And those monitors have picked up levels of 1,3-D lingering in the air.

Joseph Frank is a retired state toxicologist who oversaw 1,3-D research for the Department of Pesticide Regulation. By definition, Frank said, if the monitors are picking up the pesticide, teachers and students are inhaling it.

Will that affect the health of students, teachers and residents?

It increases the probability of potential harm.

This is where it gets complicated. It’s nearly impossible to trace any one person’s health problem back to the steady, low-dose exposure that you’d get from living or working near the fields. Plus, cancer can sit latent for 15 or 20 years before appearing. Any effect from pesticides over the past decade might not pop up for years to come. The science just isn’t there yet, Frank said.

He compares it to smoking. Even if every student at the high school smoked, he can’t guarantee that any one of them will get cancer. It’s too small of a sample size.

So scientists rely on statistics and probability to project potential damage to human health. Students are being exposed. And the probability of potential harm is increased for anyone being exposed.

These probabilities are built into how the government regulates pesticides.

The state Department of Pesticide Regulation’s stated mission is to protect public health and the environment from pesticide use. In reality, the department undertakes a balancing act between public health and the economic benefits of pesticides.

Staff scientists put together comprehensive reports about the potential health effects of different pesticides on workers and neighbors. A politically appointed manager then weighs the public health risks against the benefits the pesticide offers growers trying to run a business feeding the world. The manager then creates rules around how much of the pesticide can be used and how.

Some pesticides present acute risks – the kind of immediate health problems you’d get from inhaling a big gulp during an accident. Others present chronic risks. These are low-dose exposures you don’t even realize you’re getting over long periods of time.

For example, with 1,3-D, the state decided that its benefits are worth causing one probable cancer case per 100,000 residents. (The state’s own scientists wanted a more conservative ratio of 1-to-1 million.) It’s nearly impossible to pinpoint who will get or got cancer because of it, making the victims faceless. If someone does get cancer from it, we won’t know who it is, and that person won’t know if pesticides caused it.

However, state officials ended up putting people at an even higher cancer risk than that. At the request of Dow AgroSciences, the company that makes 1,3-D, the state created a loophole that allowed growers to use significantly higher amounts of 1,3-D than the original regulations envisioned.

Beyond that limit, Frank said, the risk becomes significant. “Anything above that would be to the scientists unacceptable,” he said.

Here’s how Frank described it when we asked him whether people in places like Oxnard should be concerned about getting cancer:

“I can’t tell them that they’re actually, they’ve crossed the line, two of their kids are going to have a problem.“I can’t say that because you have to look at the entire population when we try to make these estimates and these predictions and so, for a single family, it may be totally harmless.“As an analogy, a person may smoke for 90 years and never get lung cancer and that happens, but people who smoke, who chronically smoke are far more likely to get lung cancer and have other heart ailments and other issues than people who don’t smoke. And I’m convinced of that, but I can’t tell your grandfather that his smoking is absolutely positively going to give him cancer. I can’t say that. His individual metabolism, his defense systems, just works such that it didn’t happen.“Then again, you can have somebody that gets lung cancer at a much younger age.”

Dow AgroSciences, meanwhile, disputes the idea that 1,3-D causes cancer in humans to begin with. The state officials who allowed growers to go past the health limits maintain that no one was harmed (though other scientists backed Frank’s interpretation).

So what chemicals are being used near Rio Mesa and what are their specific risks?

For the full breakdown of chemicals and their risks, play around with our pesticide map.

No one is safe...Every Browser Hacked At Pwn2own 2015


Every year, browser vendors patch their browsers ahead of the annual HP Pwn2own browser hacking competition in a bid to prevent exploitation. The sad truth is that it's never enough. This year, security researchers were able to exploit fully patched versions of Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Microsoft Internet Explorer 11 and Apple Safari in record time. For their efforts, HP awarded researchers $557,500. Is it reasonable to expect browser makers to hold their own in an arms race against exploits? "Every year, we run the competition, the browsers get stronger, but attackers react to changes in defenses by taking different, and sometimes unexpected, approaches," Brian Gorenc manager of vulnerability research for HP Security Research said.

Overpumping of wells in San Joaquin Valley depletes water supplies, collapses land surface

Overpumping of water wells in drought-plagued California is making the earth in the San Joaquin Valley fall a half-inch each month as groundwater supplies are depleted, Bettina Boxall reports for the Los Angeles Times. "The land subsidence is cracking irrigation canals, buckling roads and permanently depleting storage space in the vast aquifer that underlies California's heartland."

While overuse has escalated during the drought, "growers have been sucking more water from its sands and clays than nature or man puts back for going on a century," Boxall writes. "They are eroding their buffer against future droughts and hastening the day, experts warn, when they will be forced to let more than a million acres of cropland turn to dust because they have exhausted their supplies of readily available groundwater." (Times graphic)
The main problem is that the Central Valley aquifer, which extends for about 400 miles under the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys, has for years been largely unregulated and unmonitored, allowing landowners of the more than 100,000 wells to take as much water as they want, Boxall writes. "Scientists estimate that since the first wells were drilled by settlers more than a century ago, pumping has depleted Central Valley groundwater reserves by 125 million acre-feet. That is about four and a half times the capacity of Lake Mead, the biggest surface reservoir in the country. About 20 million acre-feet of that loss occurred in the last decade."

Legislation, which is strongly opposed by agricultural groups, calls "for the creation of local groundwater agencies that have more than two decades to fully comply," Boxall reports.

Mar 19, 2015

Biodegradable Plastics Are as Persistent as Regular Plastics, Research Finds

Yale Environment 360
Plastics designed to degrade don't break down any faster than their conventional counterparts, according to research
Plastic accumulated along the Los Angeles River.
published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology. Because most plastics accumulate in landfills and remain intact for decades or longer, some manufacturers have begun producing plastics with proprietary blends of additives that are supposed to make the materials biodegradable, and a number of countries have adopted legislation promoting the use of those additives. But in laboratory tests, researchers found the plastics with biodegradation-promoting additives fared no better than conventional plastics in any of three different disposal scenarios — simulated landfill conditions, compost, and soil burial for three years. Previous research looked at plastics buried in soil for 10 years, the authors note, and found that only 5 percent of the so-called biodegradable plastic decomposed. 

China will spend $370 billion building nuclear reactors over the next decade

China approved two reactors this month as it vowed to cut coal use to meet terms of a carbon-emissions agreement reached in November between President Xi Jinping and U.S. counterpart Barack Obama. About $370 billion will be spent on atomic power over the next decade, Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimates. Plans to triple nuclear capacity by 2020 to as much as 58 gigawatts.

"China is in a race with itself to reach a nuclear-power goal set for 2020 that's concurrent with a coal-reduction plan," Tian Miao, an analyst at North Square Blue Oak Ltd., a London-based researcher, said in Beijing. "Because it normally takes five years to build one reactor, the program needs to be ramped up from now on."

China has 24 reactors in operation and another 25 under construction, according to the World Nuclear Association. France gets about 75 percent of its electricity generated by nuclear, making it the world leader, while the global average is about 11 percent, WNA data show. Whatever money is spent will only put a dent in the importance of coal, which is still expected to make up almost two-thirds of the nation's power mix in 2030, said Wood Mackenzie Ltd., an Edinburgh-based energy consultant.

Read more » at Next Big Future

Costs of China's air pollution and cost to greatly reduce the problem

The cost of air pollution in China has been estimated at 6.5 percent of GDP. Applying that figure to China's GDP of $8,227 trillion dollars in 2012, the year on which we base much of our analysis, implies that reducing air pollution in China to levels considered acceptable by WHO would yield annual benefits of $535 billion. As incomes rise and China becomes more urbanized, these costs are rising.

China's GDP including Hong Kong and Macau will be about $11.6 trillion in 2015. This would mean the cost of the air pollution would be $750 billion.

Rand estimates the costs of three measures to reduce air pollution in China:
1. substituting natural gas or propane for coal for residential and commercial use
2. replacing coal with renewable and nuclear fuels to generate electricity
3. scrapping older vehicles. 

Replacing coal used for residential and commercial use and about half of all coal used to generate electricity in 2012 would have resulted in a decline in coal use of 1.009 million metric tons, representing 27 percent of Chinese coal consumption that year.

The cost of replacing half of coal-fired power with water, wind, and nuclear power at $184 billion.

Read more »at Next Big Future

Mar 13, 2015

California has about one year of water left. Will you ration now? - LA Times

LA Times : Data from NASA satellites show that the total amount of water stored in the Sacramento and San Joaquin river basins — that is, all of the snow, river and reservoir water, water in soils and groundwater combined — was 34 million acre-feet below normal in 2014. That loss is nearly 1.5 times the capacity of Lake Mead, America's largest reservoir.

Statewide, we've been dropping more than 12 million acre-feet of total water yearly since 2011. Roughly two-thirds of these losses are attributable to groundwater pumping for agricultural irrigation in the Central Valley. Farmers have little choice but to pump more groundwater during droughts, especially when their surface water allocations have been slashed 80% to 100%. But these pumping rates are excessive and unsustainable. Wells are running dry. In some areas of the Central Valley, the land is sinking by one foot or more per year.

As difficult as it may be to face, the simple fact is that California is running out of water — and the problem started before our current drought. NASA data reveal that total water storage in California has been in steady decline since at least 2002, when satellite-based monitoring began, although groundwater depletion has been going on since the early 20th century.
Right now the state has only about one year of water supply left in its reservoirs, and our strategic backup supply, groundwater, is rapidly disappearing. California has no contingency plan for a persistent drought like this one (let alone a 20-plus-year mega-drought), except, apparently, staying in emergency mode and praying for rain.

In short, we have no paddle to navigate this crisis.

Several steps need be taken right now. First, immediate mandatory water rationing should be authorized across all of the state's water sectors, from domestic and municipal through agricultural and industrial. The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is already considering water rationing by the summer unless conditions improve. There is no need for the rest of the state to hesitate. The public is ready. A recent Field Poll showed that 94% of Californians surveyed believe that the drought is serious, and that one-third support mandatory rationing.

Please continue reading from: LA Times

Mar 12, 2015

60,000 veterans may lose their food stamps

Off the Charts - An estimated 60,000 veterans may lose SNAP (food stamp) benefits over the course of 2016 as a three-month limit on benefits for unemployed, nondisabled adults without children returns in many areas.  

One of the harshest pieces of the 1996 welfare law, the provision limits childless adults to three months of SNAP benefits in any 36-month period unless they are working half time or participating in a training program.  It doesn't require states and localities to help the affected people find jobs or provide a place in a job training program that would allow them to keep benefits — and very few do so.

Many states have temporarily waived the three-month limit in recent years due to high unemployment.  But as the economy continues to recover and unemployment falls, the waivers will end and more people will face the limit.

Low-income veterans are especially vulnerable to the time limit.  Unemployment for veterans serving since September 2001 remains high, averaging 9 percent in 2013 (the most recent year available).

The loss of SNAP benefits can have a serious impact on veteran and other low-income households.  People subject to the three-month limit have average monthly income of only about 19 percent of the poverty line — about $2,200 per year for a household of one in 2014 — and typically don't qualify for other income support.
Please continue reading from: http://www.offthechartsblog.org/60000-jobless-veterans-may-lose-food-assistance-due-to-time-limit/

NASA Can Make 3 More Nuclear Batteries, And That's It

From popsciPlutonium-238 is an artifact of the Cold War, a byproduct of the process used to make nuclear weapons. Since nuclear non-proliferation became popular, the flow of plutonium-238 has ceased and left limited stockpiles of this incredibly useful and relatively long-lived fuel. Plutonium-238 continues to power deep-space missions such as Voyager, Curiosity, and New Horizons, but according to a new report by Space News, there's only enough left to make three more nuclear batteries.

The batteries in question are called the Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators, or MMRTGs, which the Department of Energy makes for NASA. When a spacecraft launches with an MMRTG, it puts out about 125 watts of power at the start but fades to about 100 watts after 14 years. (As the Pu-238 decays, it releases less and less heat to for the battery to convert into electricity.)There's another nuclear battery design, however, that could stretch NASA's shrinking stockpile: the Advance Stirling Radioisotope Generator (ASRG). This model uses less than one-fourth the plutonium-238 to produce the same amount of power as an MMRTG. Among it's potential missions? Powering a nuclear submarine on Saturn's moon Titan. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like that's going to happen anytime soon. Last year, NASA closed down the ASRG team, ending that particular avenue of escape--for now.

NASA intends to use the first of the three MMRTGs to power the Mars 2020 mission, which will use a spacecraft almost identical to the Mars Curiosity Rover. The other two nuclear batteries have unknown fates. The Department of Energy just restarted domestic production of plutonium-238, but making it in large enough quantities to help the space program is an ongoing challenge.


Please continue reading from:

Mar 11, 2015

Solar and Wind on Track to Dominate New U.S. Power Capacity in 2015

U.S. electric companies expect to install more than 20 gigawatts (GW) of utility-scale generating capacity this year and

Enlarge
generating capacity additions

Power generating capacity set to come online in 2015.
60 percent of that will be wind and solar power, according to a U.S. Energy Information Administration analysis. Energy companies plan to retire 16 GW of generating capacity this year, EIA numbers show, and 81 percent of that will be coal-fired power plants. The large number of coal plant retirements can be attributed to the EPA's Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, which are slated to go into effect this year. Many companies decided that shuttering coal generators would be more cost effective than retrofitting them to meet the new standards, the EIA said. Natural gas power plants — which, although they burn fossil fuels, emit significantly less carbon than coal-fired plants — will make up roughly 32 percent of the additional capacity.

California is pumping water that fell to Earth 20,000 years ago.

Environmental Health News
As California farms and cities drill deeper for groundwater in a time of drought and climate change, they are tapping reserves from the prehistoric era, and scientists are worried about the long-term environmental consequences.

Microsoft gets its FREAK on fast, patches encryption bug in Windows

Computerworld

Microsoft today patched Windows to prevent possible FREAK attacks against users of Internet Explorer (IE).

MS15-031 patches Schannel, the set of Windows protocols that, among other things, accesses the OS's cryptographic features to encrypt traffic between browsers and website servers using SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) and its successor, TLS (Transport Layer Security).

Even though Microsoft acknowledged last week that Windows was susceptible to FREAK attacks -- adding millions more potential victims -- the company reminded everyone today that the flaw wasn't exclusive to Windows, using boilerplate that it typically trots out in such instances.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here

EPA recognizes top performing Energy Star certified manufacturing plants in Idaho, Washington

U.S. EPA News
Energy Star manufacturing plants are leading their industries by saving energy and money, combating climate change(Seattle—March 9, 2015) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today that 70 manufacturing plants have achieved Energy Star certification for their superior energy performan...

Gizmag rides the electric Lightning LS-218: The world's fastest production motorcycle

The Lightning LS-218: fat bump-stop behind the Corbin seat holds the rider in place under ...

Last May, when Gizmag first featured the "truly, horrifyingly fast" Lightning LS-218, I ended by saying: "If I could take any bike in the world out for a test today, this would be the top of the list." Well, after a 17-hour flight halfway around the globe, I have now ridden the Lightning. I have also nearly fallen off it, twice, like a complete idiot. With three times the horsepower and some 70 percent more torque than the Zero SR, which is in itself an extraordinary motorcycle, the LS-218 is the king of a new breed of electric motorcycles – one designed to take on the world's best petrol bikes and beat them on performance, not just emissions figures. Riding it was one of the most extreme experiences of my young life... Continue Reading Gizmag rides the electric Lightning LS-218: The world's fastest production motorcycle 

Section: Motorcycles 

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Hickory, N.C., Receives $200,000 EPA Brownfield Grants to Revitalize, Strengthen Local Economy (NC)

 U.S. EPA News
ATLANTA – At a press conference in Huntington, W.Va., today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a $200,000 Brownfields Area-Wide Planning (AWP) grant to the City of Hickory, N.C., for reuse planning that includes residential and commercial projects to connect an industrial area...

Total Petroleum Puerto Rico Corp. Agrees to Spend $1.6 Million to Improve Leak Detection in At Least 125 Gas Stations Across Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands

 U.S. EPA News
(New York, N.Y.) A settlement announced today between the United States and Total Petroleum Puerto Rico Corp. (Total Puerto Rico) resolves Resource Conservation Recovery Act (RCRA) violations alleged at 31 gas stations in Puerto Rico and four gas stations in the U.S. Virgin Islands that contai...

Mar 10, 2015

Within 15 years, solar will be a dominant energy source

ComputerworldSolar electricity is expected to become competitive with other forms of electricity in an increasing number of markets globally due to declining solar panel and installation costs, according to a new report.

By 2030, solar power will generate $5 trillion in revenue worldwide, a 10-fold increase over today, according to the report from Deutsche Bank (PDF).

Costs for deploying solar Deutsche Bank

Nearly every cost for installing solar, from panels to inverters, is on the decline. 

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here

Mar 9, 2015

Sewage Bacteria Reveal Cities' Obesity Rates

A new frontier in data mining: Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts surveyed bacteria from human waste in the municipal sewage systems. Surprisingly they found different proportions of bacterial species in cities that correlated with obesity rates in those municipal areas. The researchers believe that these bacterial samples can yield city-level information on other diseases as well.Hopefully this isn't just a messy case of spurious correlation.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Mar 6, 2015

EPA Awards 15 Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Grants Totaling Over $8 Million to Combat Invasive Species (IL, IN, MI, MN, NY, OH, PA, WI)

EPA -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced the award of 15 Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grants totaling more than $8 million for projects to combat invasive species in the Great Lakes basin. "These Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grants will be used... Please continue reading from: U.S. EPA News

Mar 5, 2015

Inventor of the K Cup,style coffee capsule prefers to use filters.

His idea revolutionized beverage preparation and spawned a multibillion-pound industry, but the inventor of the American version of the coffee capsule has admitted he "sometimes feels bad" about what he did and what it's doing to the environment. Please continue reading from: Environmental Health News

San Franciso becomes first city to ban plastic bottles

Global Flare San Francisco has just become the first city in America to ban the sale of plastic water bottles, a move that is building on a global movement to reduce the huge amount of waste from the billion-dollar plastic bottle industry. Over the next four years, the ban will phase out the sales of plastic water bottles that hold 21 ounces or less in public places. Waivers are permissible if an adequate alternative water source is not available. 
Please continue reading from: 

Mar 4, 2015

California to try again to add styrene to proposition 65 list of carcinogens.

The notice of intent follows two earlier efforts, one of which a state appeals court blocked after deciding the agency lacked sufficient evidence that styrene is "known" to cause cancer. 
Please continue reading from:   Environmental Health News

DNR awards grants for lake and river projects

MADISON -- Statewide lake and river groups as well as community organizations will receive $2.3 million in grants from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to develop management plans and improve water quality. 
Please continue reading from: Wisconsin DNR Weekly News

World Wind Industry Grows 44% in 2014

2014 was a record-breaking year for the wind industry as it grew 44% worldwide, says the Global Wind Energy Council.

The industry added 51.5 gigawatts (GW) bringing the world cumulative total to 369.6 GW. 

China, still the leader, set its own record by installing 23.4 GW - almost half the world's new capacity, and more than any country has added in one year. China has 115 GW of wind farms.

Europe added 12.8 GW, and Germany installed almost half of that with 5.3 GW of new wind, growing 58% from 2013. Germany now has 38 GW of onshore wind and 2.4 GW of offshore wind. Renewable energy currently supplies 25.8% of the country's electricity.

European countries are now connected to nearly 2,500 turbines as part of 74 different offshore wind farms, reports the European Wind Energy Association. Total installed capacity there reached 8,045.3 MW in 2014.

Other notable additions:

  • US added 4.9 GW
  • Latin America added 3.7 GW, mostly in Brazil (2.8 GW) - the significant newcomer
  • India added 2.3 GW

Denmark had a watershed year, with wind producing 39% of its electricity, as did Scotland at 32%, and the UK, Spain, Portugal, and Germany get at least 10% from wind. 

Wind energy now accounts for about 5% of global electricity demand. 

Wind Industry 2014


Please continue reading from: 
http://www.sustainablebusiness.com/index.cfm/go/news.display/id/26180

Mar 3, 2015

China’s biggest viral video right now is this two-hour-long documentary on pollution

The Washington Post: 

The most popular viral phenomenon on Chinese Internet right now has nothing to do with thecolor of a dress or a baby weasel riding a woodpecker. It's a 104-minute-long documentary about the environment.

Produced and narrated by Chai Jing, a former investigative reporter for Chinese state television, the film "Under the Dome" is in the style of a TED talk or an activist Al Gore documentary, looking at the grim state of air pollution in China and what can be done to remedy it.

The film takes aim at the lax practices and individual poor habits that lead to smog blanketing China's cities. After being uploaded on the weekend, it has generated hundreds of millions of views and social media posts by Chinese netizens.

....The film generated a huge, emotional response online, including angry comments directed at China's political authorities.

Please continue reading from: 
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2015/03/03/chinas-biggest-viral-video-right-now-is-this-two-hour-long-documentary-on-pollution/
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