Wednesday, December 31, 2008

California sues to block Bush's Endangered Species Act rules

Attorney General Jerry Brown

SACRAMENTO (AP) ― California is suing the Bush administration to block last-minute endangered species regulations that are intended to reduce input from federal scientists.

Attorney General Jerry Brown announced Tuesday that he had filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in San Francisco. The suit was filed late Monday.

Brown says the Bush administration is trying to gut the Endangered Species Act.

The Interior Department issued the revised rules earlier this month. They allow federal agencies to issue permits for mining, logging and similar activities without getting a review from biologists.

CA Sues To Block Bush's Endangered Species Rules

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Global whale "hot spot" discovered off East Timor

By Rob Taylor

Beaked whale (Photo: credit Nan Hauser & Hoyt Peckham, CCRC)

CANBERRA, Dec 31 (Reuters) - One of the world's highest concentrations of dolphins and whales -- many of them protected species -- has been discovered off the coast of East Timor, local and Australian researchers said on Wednesday.

A "hot spot" of marine cetaceans migrating through deep channels off the Timor coast, including blue and beaked whales, short-finned pilot whales, melon headed whales and six dolphin species was uncovered in a study for the Timor government.

"We were all amazed to see such an abundance, diversity and density of cetaceans. Most of them are actually protected," principal scientist Karen Edyvane told Reuters.

"It's among the world's hot spots for cetaceans," she said. The survey was done by East Timorese researchers and experts from the Australian Institute of Marine Science, working from a traditional 20-metre wooden Indonesian vessel.


"We are committed to ensuring that this marine biodiversity is protected," said Celestino Barreto de Cunha, director of fisheries management for East Timor's government.

Global whale "hot spot" discovered off East Timor
31 Dec 2008 05:02:56 GMT

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Wind, water and sun beat biofuels, nuclear and coal for clean energy

Wind power is the most promising alternative source of energy, according to Mark Jacobson. (Credit: LM Glasfiber)

ScienceDaily — The best ways to improve energy security, mitigate global warming and reduce the number of deaths caused by air pollution are blowing in the wind and rippling in the water, not growing on prairies or glowing inside nuclear power plants, says Mark Z. Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford.

And "clean coal," which involves capturing carbon emissions and sequestering them in the earth, is not clean at all, he asserts.

Jacobson has conducted the first quantitative, scientific evaluation of the proposed, major, energy-related solutions by assessing not only their potential for delivering energy for electricity and vehicles, but also their impacts on global warming, human health, energy security, water supply, space requirements, wildlife, water pollution, reliability and sustainability. His findings indicate that the options that are getting the most attention are between 25 to 1,000 times more polluting than the best available options.

"The energy alternatives that are good are not the ones that people have been talking about the most. And some options that have been proposed are just downright awful," Jacobson said. "Ethanol-based biofuels will actually cause more harm to human health, wildlife, water supply and land use than current fossil fuels." He added that ethanol may also emit more global-warming pollutants than fossil fuels, according to the latest scientific studies.

Wind, Water And Sun Beat Biofuels, Nuclear And Coal For Clean Energy

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Texas Legislature could be going 'green'

Priorities in upcoming session may include renewable energy, environmental jobs


Texas Solar Forum

Global warming might be critical to the future of the planet, but inside the Texas Capitol, it's never been much of a match for taxes and tuition.

The upcoming legislative session, however, could be different, with lawmakers from both parties already talking about renewable energy, energy efficiency and so-called "green jobs" as priorities.

"The climate has changed, atmospherically and politically," said Tom "Smitty" Smith, executive director of the Texas office for Public Citizen, a consumer and environmental advocacy group.

For some time now, Texas lawmakers have been cool to global warming, spurning several measures that dealt directly with the issue. The state is America's power plant and gas pump and thus leads the nation, by far, in emissions of heat-trapping gases that contribute to climate change.

But with a new president who has pledged to cap carbon dioxide emissions and invest in renewable energy, lawmakers and lobbyists expect Washington to move aggressively to combat climate change.

Texas Legislature could be going 'green'

World's largest solar PV plant installed in Portugal


ACCIONA Energy has put into service its 46 megawatt photovoltaic power plant in Amareleja (Moura, Portugal), the largest of its kind in the world.

Amareleja is capable of producing 93 million KW/h a year equivalent to the electrical consumption of over 30 million Portuguese households and will avoid the 89,383 tonnes of CO2 emissions a year that would have otherwise been produced by the coal-fired power stations required to produce the same amount of power.

The plant covers a total area of 250 hectares, located in the parish of Amareleja in the municipality of Moura, in Portugal’s Alentejo region, not far from the border with Spain. It has 2,520 Buskil trackers (ACCIONA in-house technology), each with a surface of 142 m2, 13 meters long and 10.87 meters high. Each tracker has 104 polycrystalline silicon modules with a capacity of 170 and 180 Wp, and the trackers support a total 262,080 PV modules. The trackers follow the sun with an azimuthal rotation movement of 240 degrees, and a fixed inclination of 45 degrees.

ACCIONA Puts 46MW PV Project in to Service

Monday, December 29, 2008

U.S. edges out Germany as world wind power leader

WASHINGTON, DC, December 26, 2008 (ENS) - The national trade association of America's wind industry says in 2008 the industry had another record growth year - the third record year in a row and generated more than $18 billion in revenues.

This year, the United States passed Germany to become the world leader in wind generation, said the American Wind Energy Association in its year-end report.

AWEA says that this summer, the U.S. wind industry reached the 20,000-megawatt installed capacity milestone, doubling installed wind power generating capacity since 2006.

By the end of September, the U.S. had over 21,000 megawatts of wind capacity up and running. Germany had 22,300 megawatts, but U.S. windpower developers sprinted to the end of the year while German wind development slowed.

U.S. Edges Out Germany as World Wind Power Leader

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Four years after tsunami, coral reefs recovering

A succesful coral transplant site in Aceh, Indonesia, some four years after the tsunami (Rizya Legawa).  

Newswise — A team of scientists from the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has reported a rapid recovery of coral reefs in areas of Indonesia, following the tsunami that devastated coastal regions throughout the Indian Ocean four years ago today.

The WCS team, working in conjunction with the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (ARCCoERS) along with government, community and non-government partners, has documented high densities of “baby corals” in areas that were severely impacted by the tsunami.

The team, which has surveyed the region’s coral reefs since the December 26, 2004 tsunami, looked at 60 sites along 800 kilometers (497 miles) of coastline in Aceh, Indonesia. The researchers attribute the recovery to natural colonization by resilient coral species, along with the reduction of destructive fishing practices by local communities.

“On the 4th anniversary of the tsunami, this is a great story of ecosystem resilience and recovery,” said Dr, Stuart Campbell, coordinator of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Indonesia Marine Program. “Our scientific monitoring is showing rapid growth of young corals in areas where the tsunami caused damage, and also the return of new generations of corals in areas previously damaged by destructive fishing. These findings provide new insights into coral recovery processes that can help us manage coral reefs in the face of climate change.”

Four Years After Tsunami, Coral Reefs Recovering

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A dry continent demands creative solutions

BEFORE Melbourne's climate became hotter and drier, a cool December was considered a sign that the summer might be a fizzer. How times have changed. With Melbourne's catchments at a low 34.9 per cent many are now wishing for a season of long rainy summer days. Unfortunately, no one is predicting an end to the drought any time soon. Despite heavy rains in December and late November our water storages are 4.4 percentage points below what they were last year. September was the driest on record in central Melbourne.

The State Government's big-ticket responses to the water shortage — the desalination plant near Wonthaggi and the north-south pipeline from the Goulburn Valley to the city — will ease the pressure on Melbourne's water supplies, but may not solve the problem in the longer term. Both projects are controversial, but what is beyond argument is that more water is needed. Melbourne grew by more than 1000 people a week in the past 12 months. By the end of 2011, Melbourne should be receiving 240 gigalitres of extra water from new projects. Already policymakers and politicians are arguing whether this will be enough by 2030. It is not possible for future rainfall patterns to be predicted with any certainty, although the recent State of the Environment report by Sustainability Commissioner Ian McPhail strongly suggests the frequency of drought in Victoria will increase. Which means that the way we think about water needs to change.

Mr McPhail urged the Government to "engage with the community" about the water issue, including the possibility of "drinking purified recycled water" in the future. According to John Morgan, who was Melbourne Water managing director from 1995 to 1998, recycling water from the Carrum sewerage plant would be cheaper and more energy efficient than desalination. If the gloomier climate change prognoses are correct, the state will be forced to revisit the issue.

A dry continent demands creative solutions

New Scientist: Reality returns to the White House

by Peter Aldhous, 27 December 2008

Barack Obama may have an impossible burden  of expectation on his shoulders, but one fervent wish of many US scientists should be easy enough to fulfil: simply lead the nation back into the "reality-based community".

That phrase, famously used by a senior adviser to George W. Bush in a 2002 conversation with the journalist Ron Suskind, epitomised the Bush administration's contempt for those who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality": that is from observation rather than ideology.

Instead, the Bush White House boasted of creating its own reality, and had little time for research that questioned its policies, leading to what some observers characterised as a "war on science". Many top scientific jobs were filled by ideologues, and empirical evidence was ignored or distorted in order to bolster policies such as inaction on global warming, a reluctance to list species as endangered, and an approach to HIV that focused on sexual abstinence.

Scientists were prominent among those cheering Obama's election victory on 4 November. A clear sign of the president-elect's new direction came two weeks later when he sent a video message to a conference on global warming in Beverly Hills, California. "The science is beyond dispute and the facts are clear," Obama said. "Delay is no longer an option. Denial is no longer an acceptable response. The stakes are too high; the consequences too serious."

News review 2008: Reality returns to the White House

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Sunday, December 28, 2008

New tool fertilizes fields and reduces runoff nutrients

A new tool invented by ARS researchers buries poultry litter--a natural fertilizer for crop fields--in shallow trenches to reduce run off of excess nutrients. (Credit: Photo courtesy of Thomas R.Way, ARS.)

A new field tool developed by Agricultural Research Service scientists applies poultry litter to fields in shallow bands, reducing runoff of excess nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen.

Poultry litter—a combination of poultry manure and bedding material, such as pine shavings or peanut or rice hulls—is a natural fertilizer. The conventional method of applying it to fields utilizes a broadcast spreader, which scatters the litter across the soil surface. Because it rests on top of the soil, the litter is vulnerable to runoff in heavy rains.

A new tool developed by ARS agricultural engineer Thomas R. Way and his colleagues at the agency's National Soil Dynamics Laboratory in Auburn, Ala., offers a solution. The tool digs shallow trenches about two to three inches deep in the soil. It then places the poultry litter in the trenches and covers it with soil. Burying the litter significantly reduces the risk of runoff.

New Tool Fertilizes Fields And Reduces Runoff Nutrients
Sun, 28 Dec 2008 05:00:00 GMT

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Killer mice bring albatross population near extinction

The Critically Endangered Tristan Albatross, has suffered its worst breeding season ever. The number of chicks making it through to fledging has decreased rapidly and it is now five times lower than it should be because introduced predatory mice are eating the chicks alive on Gough island - the bird's only home and a South Atlantic territory of the United Kingdom.

The mice are also affecting Gough Island’s other Critically Endangered endemic species, Gough Bunting Rowettia goughensis. A recent survey of the bunting’s population revealed that the population has halved within the last two decades. Now there are only an estimated 400-500 pairs left.

“We’ve known for a long time that the mice were killing albatross chicks in huge numbers. However, we now know that the albatrosses have suffered their worst year on record”, said Richard Cuthbert, an RSPB scientist who has been researching the mice problem on Gough Island since 2000. “We also know that the mice are predators on the eggs and chicks of the Gough bunting and mice predation is the main factor behind their recent decline.”

Killer Mice Bring Albatross Population Closer To Extinction
Sun, 28 Dec 2008 05:00:00 GMT

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EPA approves safer refrigerant developed by Hawaii man

By Christie Wilson, Advertiser Maui Bureau

Richard Maruya has been using his newly approved refrigerant in his own vehicle, the only vehicle he can use it in legally, for years (Advertiser library photo).

The Environmental Protection Agency has approved a Kane'ohe man's homemade formula for a refrigerant in home appliances and air-conditioners that is safer for consumers and the environment.

Richard Maruya designed his HCR-188c hydrocarbon blend as a replacement for refrigerants that deplete the Earth's ozone layer and/or contribute "greenhouse" gases to the atmosphere. His precise mixture of ethane, propane, isobutene, normal butane and other naturally occurring compounds has zero ozone-depleting potential and very low global warming potential.

And, because appliances using HCR-188c require only one-quarter of the usual amount of refrigerant, the danger from fires and leaks is extremely low. Independent testing also has shown that appliances with HCR-188c use less energy and provide a greater degree of cooling.

In April, Maruya was honored with the 2008 Environmental Achievement Award from EPA's Region IX office for his "innovative research" and "unwavering commitment to achieve this environmentally friendly product."

EPA approves safer refrigerant developed by Hawaii man

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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Alamosa solar plant's success helps prove resource's viability on large scale

(Zinn Photography, courtesy of SunEdison )

A sun-powered generating station in the San Luis Valley will finish 2008 as the nation's most productive utility-scale solar electricity plant.

The 82-acre SunEdison station north of Alamosa generated enough power this year to serve 1,652 homes, making it the largest plant of its kind in the nation.

Solar experts said the facility's successful first year of operation should help convince utilities that sun power can be a viable part of the U.S. generation mix, even though its costs are higher and its output more intermittent than traditional coal- and natural-gas-fired generators.

Xcel Energy is using the plant's power to help it meet the renewable-energy standards approved by Colorado voters and state legislators over the past four years.

Alamosa solar plant's success helps prove resource's viability on large scale

Iceland's fall: the isle that rattled the world

Tiny Iceland Created a Vast Bubble, Leaving Wreckage Everywhere When It Popped


Icelandic stock market index

REYKJAVIK, Iceland -- A boy charged to the front of an angry crowd here recently and tossed a carton of skyr, a popular local yogurt-like snack, at the Parliament building. It splattered on the rough-hewn stone.

He and thousands of Icelanders were protesting one of the strangest economic failures of the global financial crisis. This past fall, every bank that matters in this tiny nation -- that is, all three of them -- failed. Iceland's currency, the krona, became worthless beyond its shores. The country's financial system stopped working.

"We are pissed off at the government," said one young man, pausing between fusillades of eggs. A roll of toilet paper arced across the Nordic sky.

Iceland is an extreme casualty of an era in which it became extraordinarily easy to borrow money. But it was more than that: An examination of the nation's banking system, which collapsed over about 10 days this autumn, reveals the degree to which Iceland was one of the international financial bubble's most enthusiastic players. Home to fewer people than Wichita, Kan., Iceland became so leveraged and so deeply intertwined with the global financial infrastructure that its collapse has rattled the world from Tokyo to California to the Middle East.

The Isle That Rattled the World

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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Amateurs are trying genetic engineering at home

By MARCUS WOHLSEN, Associated Press Writer

Meredith L. Patterson, a computer programmer by day, conducts an experiment in the dining room of her San Francisco apartment on Thursday, Dec. 18, 2008. Patterson is among a new breed of techno rebels who want to put genetic engineering tools in the hands of anyone with a smart idea. Using homemade lab equipment and the wealth of scientific knowledge available online, these hobbyists are trying to create new life forms through genetic engineering - a field long dominated by Ph.D.s toiling in university and corporate laboratories.

SAN FRANCISCO – The Apple computer was invented in a garage. Same with the Google search engine. Now, tinkerers are working at home with the basic building blocks of life itself.

Using homemade lab equipment and the wealth of scientific knowledge available online, these hobbyists are trying to create new life forms through genetic engineering — a field long dominated by Ph.D.s toiling in university and corporate laboratories.

In her San Francisco dining room lab, for example, 31-year-old computer programmer Meredith L. Patterson is trying to develop genetically altered yogurt bacteria that will glow green to signal the presence of melamine, the chemical that turned Chinese-made baby formula and pet food deadly.

"People can really work on projects for the good of humanity while learning about something they want to learn about in the process," she said.

So far, no major gene-splicing discoveries have come out anybody's kitchen or garage.

Amateurs are trying genetic engineering at home

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Obama team primed to push climate change agenda

Carol Browner and Dr Steven Chu WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President-elect Barack Obama's new "green dream team" is committed to battling climate change and ready to push for big policy reforms, in stark contrast with the Bush administration, environmental advocates said on Monday.

Mario Molina

"If this team can't advance strong national policy on global warming, then no one can," said Kevin Knobloch, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, referring to Obama's picks for the top energy and environment jobs in his administration, which takes office on January 20.

"This caliber of scientists in any administration would be a major headline," Knobloch said by telephone on Monday. "But in contrast to the eight years of the Bush administration, where political appointees ran roughshod over science at a terrible cost to the truth, they stand out even more."

Obama team primed to push climate change agenda

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Obama urged to address deteriorating oceans

By J.R. Pegg

Overfishing is depleting marine fish species (Photo courtesy NOAA)

WASHINGTON, DC, December 19, 2008 (ENS) – More than four years after two independent expert panels urged the Bush administration and Congress to immediately overhaul the nation's oceans policy, few of their recommendations have been implemented and the state of the oceans is deteriorating rapidly.

Overfishing, pollution and climate change are wreaking havoc with ocean ecosystems and driving species into extinction, leaving scientists and advocates fearful for the future absent dramatic action to change course and desperate for leadership from President-elect Barack Obama.

"We need a statement from the new administration that the United States is ready to bail out the oceans to protect marine biodiversity and related economic opportunity worldwide," said Michael Hirshfield, chief scientist and senior vice president of the North American arm of Oceana.
Storm waves in the North Pacific Ocean (Photo courtesy NOAA)

Hirshfield is hoping for "concrete action" early in the Obama administration, such as an executive order calling for a new oceans policy stating the nation's intent to manage the oceans for long-term sustainability, rather than short-term profits.

Obama Urged to Address Deteriorating Oceans

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Tough climate goals may be easier than feared

OSLO (Reuters) - Tough targets for avoiding dangerous global warming may be easier to achieve than widely believed, according to a study that could ease fears of a prohibitive long-term surge in costs.

The report, by scientists in the Netherlands and Germany, indicated that initial investments needed to be high to have any impact in slowing temperature rises. Beyond a certain threshold, however, extra spending would have clear returns on warming.

Until now, most governments have worried that costs may start low and then soar -- suggesting that ambitious targets will become too expensive for tackling threats such as extinctions, droughts, floods and rising seas.

"It gets easier once the world gets going ... ," said Michiel Schaeffer of Wageningen University in the Netherlands and lead author of the study in Tuesday's edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

"In a sense ... our paper is bad news: doing a bit is hardly effective," he told Reuters. "On the other hand it's good news, because the return on the really 'painful' investments later on, of which the world is so afraid, gives you much better returns."

Tough climate goals may be easier than feared
Mon, 22 Dec 2008 22:25:33 GMT

Monday, December 22, 2008

Rooftop wind power

Homeowners can knock 20 to 40 percent off their electricity bills with a new wind turbine that can be mounted directly on a building. The seven-foot-wide plastic turbine has a ring around its rotors that diffuses noise and limits vibration; the company claims that the turbine is no louder than a whisper. In windy locations, its power output should be about 2,000 kilowatt-hours a year.

Courtesy of Cascade Engineering

Rooftop Wind Power

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EU reaches agreement on 2009 fish quotas

While quotas will be lifted, fishermen will have to use nets and gear that allow more targeted catches so that they can avoid wasteful discarding.EU fisheries ministers reached agreement Friday on 2009 fish quotas, with a big increase in permitted catches of cod in the North Sea but cuts elsewhere.
They also agreed to tackle the problem of fish that are thrown back and left to die because they are too small, the wrong species or because fishermen do not have a quota to bring them back to market.

Environmental groups have long attacked the so-called practice of discarding, which they say can make up half the fish caught on average and which they consider to be a huge waste.

"We have managed to strike a balance," said French Agriculture Minister Michel Barnier after chairing the meeting in Brussels, where a unanimous compromise agreement was reached in a second day of negotiations.

"We found the always very difficult balance, in a good atmosphere, between responsibly and sustainably managing fragile resources and fishermen's interests," he added.

EU reaches agreement on 2009 fish quotas

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Japan launches first solar cargo ship

The Toyota Vehicle Distribution Center at the Port of Long Beach. The world's first cargo ship partly propelled by solar power took to the seas on Friday in Japan, aiming to cut fuel costs and carbon emissions when automakers export their products(AFP/Getty Images/File/David Mcnew)AFP - The world's first cargo ship partly propelled by solar power took to the seas on Friday in Japan, aiming to cut fuel costs and carbon emissions when automakers export their products.

Japan launches first solar cargo ship (AFP)
Fri, 19 Dec 2008 08:53:11 GMT

Scientists hack cellphone to analyze blood, detect disease, help developing nations

By Dave Bullock , 12.20.08

LOS ANGELES — A new MacGyver-esque cellphone hack could bring cheap, on-the-spot disease detection to even the most remote villages on the planet. Using only an LED, plastic light filter and some wires, scientists at UCLA have modded a cellphone into a portable blood tester capable of detecting HIV, malaria and other illnesses.

Blood tests today require either refrigerator-sized machines that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars or a trained technician who manually identifies and counts cells under a microscope. These systems are slow, expensive and require dedicated labs to function. And soon they could be a thing of the past.

UCLA researcher Dr. Aydogan Ozcan images thousands of blood cells instantly by placing them on an off-the-shelf camera sensor and lighting them with a filtered-light source (coherent light, for you science buffs). The filtered light exposes distinctive qualities of the cells, which are then interpreted by Ozcan's custom software. By analyzing the cell types present in a much larger sample, a more accurate diagnosis can be made in a matter of minutes. No more sending blood away to a lab and waiting days or weeks for the results.

Scientists Hack Cellphone to Analyze Blood, Detect Disease, Help Developing Nations

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Endangered species ringtone downloads exceed 200,000 milestone

A cool idea from the Center for Biological Diversity.

CHIRICAHUA LEOPARD FROG (Rana chiricahuensis) We’re celebrating 200,000 downloads of our free endangered ringtones — so we've added seven new tones and cell phone wallpapers! Our latest ringtones are "for the birds," including new calls from the peregrine falcon, Mexican spotted owl, northern goshawk, tricolored blackbird, and Gunnison's sage grouse. And our new flock of ringtones also includes an entirely flightless but equally charismatic species: an elephant seal pup. Also new: Each animal on our download page now links to its very own profile page, where you can learn more about how it lives and why it may need your help to survive. Take a look and have a listen.

[ Download now ]

The Center for Biological Diversity offers you free endangered species ringtones and phone wallpapers a collection of high-quality, authentic sounds and images of some of the world’s most threatened birds, owls, frogs, toads and marine mammals.

Whether the cry of the Mexican gray wolf or the underwater warbles of the beluga whale, our ringtones provide a great starting point for talking about the plight of threatened species worldwide. In fact, they've been downloaded by thousands of people in more than 150 countries around the globe, including the United Kingdom, Canada, China, Japan, Iran, India, Poland, Germany, France, Brazil, Australia, and the United States. Make a statement with your cell phone and download free endangered species ringtones now.

[ Download now ]

More than 200,000 ringtones heard 

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Obama signals break with Bush in new science team

US president-elect Barack Obama, seen here in Chicago, has signaled climate change and genetic research will be among his top priorities when he takes office as he names four key members of his administration.

WASHINGTON (AFP) – President-elect Barack Obama on Saturday signaled climate change and genetic research will be among his top priorities when he takes office as he named White House science and technology advisers.

"Today, more than ever before, science holds the key to our survival as a planet and our security and prosperity as a nation," Obama said in a weekly radio and video address.

"It's time we once again put science at the top of our agenda and worked to restore America's place as the world leader in science and technology."

Obama's comments were a clear reference to President George W. Bush's administration which has been accused of downplaying scientific findings on climate change and genetic research.

Signaling a break with Bush's policies on global warming, Obama named John Holdren, an award-winning environmental policy professor at Harvard University, to head the Office of Science and Technology Policy and co-chair the president's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

Obama signals break with Bush in new science team

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Energy crunch may offset recovery, experts predict

EIA Graph of West Texas Intermediate (WTI) Crude Oil Prices, through 12/2/2008.

When crude prices hit unprecedented highs last summer, followed closely by gasoline and diesel, consumers reacted by driving less and conserving more.

Then prices began an equally dramatic fall to levels not seen since 2004, exacerbated by the growing global recession.

However, increasing delays in new production projects could create an energy crunch and choke off an economic recovery when demand rebounds, Richard Jones, deputy executive director of the International Energy Agency, said Tuesday in a presentation at Rice University’s James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy.

"We believe these developments have diverted world attention from energy security and climate change," he said. "In times of economic hardship, it’s all too easy to lose sight of longer-term concerns."

The IEA’s 2008 World Energy Outlook, compiled in the first half of this year as oil marched toward the $140s, calls for worldwide energy investments of $26.3 trillion through 2030, or more than $1 trillion each year. It also says under current policies, global demand will rise 1.6 percent a year, or 45 percent by 2030.

"We don’t think current worries justify backtracking or delay," Jones said Tuesday. "Investment will be a sound way to increase jobs and get out of the economic crisis we’re in."

Energy crunch may offset recovery, experts predict

Friday, December 19, 2008

I sequester carbon for a living: Accoya wood

By Robert Rapier, posted at The Oil Drum

What Makes This Bridge in Sneek, the Netherlands One of a Kind?

Back in March, I left my job with ConocoPhillips to become the Engineering Director for London-based Accsys Technologies, PLC (my work is focused within the wholly-owned Titan Wood subsidiaries). I explained the circumstances behind my decision to switch employers here. I stated at that time that I would continue to focus my writing on energy and the environment, and not use my platform to start promoting my new company - even though it is focused on environmental technologies. I think it's fair to say that I have kept to my word. However, I did say that at some point I would write a more extensive article on exactly what it is that my new company is doing. This is that article, which ties into energy, the environment, sustainability, and carbon capture.

I Sequester Carbon for a Living

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

U.S. carbon output slower than thought by 2030: EIA

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. energy-related emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide by 2030 will be 9.4 percent less than forecast last year as renewable energy develops and prices cut demand, the Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday.

Energy-related carbon dioxide emissions will hit 6.410 billion metric tons in 2030, the EIA said in its Annual Energy Outlook 2009. In its 2008 outlook, the EIA had forecast the emissions to hit 6.851 billion metric tons by 2030.

"Efficiency policies and higher energy prices ... slow the rise in U.S. energy use," the EIA said. "When combined with the increased use of renewables and a reduction in the projected additions of new coal-fired conventional power plants, this slows the growth in energy-related (greenhouse gas) emissions."

U.S. carbon output slower than thought by 2030: EIA
Wed, 17 Dec 2008 15:11:10 GMT

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

using eddy currents/vorticies to generate power in fluids/gases

Much like new fangled performance swim suits take advantage of strategically placed bumps to facilitate faster swimming, there's been some improvement related to fluid dynamics and power production.

This article points out the basics of the technology, which is under development in Michael Bernitsas' lab at the University of Michigan.

Clean Power Tapped From Swirling Currents
Emily Sohn, Discovery News

Dec. 15, 2008 -- Currents can be powerful enough to tip canoes, damage docks and even topple bridges. The force of all that moving water can also provide a clean, affordable and unobtrusive source of renewable energy, says engineer Michael Bernitsas, of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

Bernitsas has invented a device, named VIVACE, that converts river and ocean currents into electricity. Like fish, the device takes advantage of powerful phenomena called vortex-induced vibrations.

These vibrations occur when water flows past a round or cylindrical object. Swirls of water form downstream from the object and in an alternating pattern on either side of it. That causes the object to oscillate, or vibrate, up and down.

Vortex-induced vibrations also occur in air. And they have been responsible for some high-profile disasters, including the 1940 collapse of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in Washington.

(you'll have to follow the link for the rest of the article)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

UN climate change conference in Poznań wraps

The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Poznań on Saturday 13 December with a clear commitment from governments to shift into full negotiating mode next year in order to shape an ambitious and effective international response to climate change, to be agreed in Copenhagen at the end of 2009. Parties agreed that the first draft of a concrete negotiating text would be available at a UNFCCC gathering in Bonn in June of 2009.

At Poznań, the finishing touches were put to the Kyoto Protocol’s Adaptation Fund, with Parties agreeing that the Fund would be a legal entity granting direct access to developing countries. Progress was also made on a number of important ongoing issues that are particularly important for developing countries, including: adaptation; finance; technology; reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD); and disaster management.

A key event at the Conference was a ministerial round table on a shared vision on long-term cooperative action on climate change. Ministers gave a resounding commitment to achieving an ambitious and comprehensive deal in Copenhagen that can be ratified by all. The next major UNFCCC gathering will take place next from 29 March to 8 April next year in Bonn, Germany.

Archive from all days including summaries of the daily press briefings

The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Poznań, 1-12 December 2008

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Pacific nations to cut bigeye tuna catch by 30 percent

By Jon Herskovitz and Seo Eun-kyung; Editing by Bill Tarrant

SEOUL (Reuters) - Asia-Pacific nations have agreed to cut their catches of bigeye tuna by 30 percent by 2011 in order to help preserve the fish that is popular in the region served raw as sushi and sashimi.

The deal, announced late on Friday, calls on the 25 members of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission to implement cuts of 10 percent a year on bigeye tuna from 2009 to 2011. The group met this week in the South Korean city of Busan.

The group, which includes South Korea, Japan and the United States, also agreed to place limits on the fishing season and ban fishing of bigeye tuna in international waters, according to a summary of the meeting provided by South Korea's fisheries agency on Saturday.

Western and Central Pacific tuna stocks are the largest in the world and account for more than half the tuna consumed.

A decline in bluefin stocks has increased demand for bigeye tuna, which is fished in the Indian and Atlantic oceans and the Western and Central Pacific.

Worldwide stocks of bigeye tuna, a prime source for Japanese restaurants serving sushi and sashimi around the world, are on the verge of collapse from overfishing, conservationists say.

In November, the European Union and nations such as Russia, Japan and South Korea that fish the Atlantic and Mediterranean, cut bluefin tuna quotas by 30 percent to 19,950 tonnes in 2010.

Fri Dec 12, 2008 11:14pm EST

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8 really, really scary predictions

Dow 4,000. Food shortages. A bubble in Treasury notes. Fortune spoke to eight of the market's sharpest thinkers and what they had to say about the future is frightening.

Nouriel Roubini

Nouriel Roubini

Known as Dr. Doom, the NYU economics professor  saw the mortgage-related meltdown coming.

We are in the middle of a very severe recession that's going to continue through all of 2009 - the worst U.S. recession in

the past 50 years. It's the bursting of a huge leveraged-up credit bubble. There's no going back, and there is no bottom to it. It was excessive in everything from subprime to prime, from credit cards to student loans, from corporate bonds to muni bonds. You name it. And it's all reversing right now in a very, very massive way. At this point it's not just a U.S. recession. All of the advanced economies are at the beginning of a hard landing. And emerging markets, beginning with China, are in a severe slowdown. So we're having a global recession and it's becoming worse.

Things are going to be awful for everyday people. U.S. GDP growth is going to be negative through the end of 2009. And the recovery in 2010 and 2011, if there is one, is going to be so weak - with a growth rate of 1% to 1.5% - that it's going to feel like a recession. I see the unemployment rate peaking at around 9% by 2010. The value of homes has already fallen 25%. In my view, home prices are going to fall by another 15% before bottoming out in 2010.

For the next 12 months I would stay away from risky assets. I would stay away from the stock market. I would stay away from commodities. I would stay away from credit, both high-yield and high-grade. I would stay in cash or cashlike instruments such as short-term or longer-term government bonds. It's better to stay in things with low returns rather than to lose 50% of your wealth. You should preserve capital. It'll be hard and challenging enough. I wish I could be more cheerful, but I was right a year ago, and I think I'll be right this year too.

8 really, really scary predictions

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Friday, December 12, 2008

UN talks set programme to landmark climate pact in '09

EU Comissioner for Environment Stavros Dimas gives a press conference of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Poznan. The world's forum for tackling climate change on Friday agreed a programme designed to culminate in a treaty that would expunge the darkening threat to mankind from greenhouse gases.(AFP/Janek Skarzynski)AFP - The world's forum for tackling climate change on Friday agreed a programme designed to culminate in a treaty that would expunge the darkening threat to mankind from greenhouse gases.

UN talks set programme to landmark climate pact in '09 (AFP)
Fri, 12 Dec 2008 14:21:38 GMT

Thursday, December 11, 2008

U.N. chief tells world: we need a Green New Deal

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon waves as he arrives at the UN climate change conference in Poznan December 11, 2008. (Kacper Pempel/Reuters)Reuters - The world must avoid backsliding in fighting global warming and work out a "Green New Deal" to fix its twin climate and economic crises, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Thursday.

U.N. chief tells world: we need a Green New Deal (Reuters)
Thu, 11 Dec 2008 16:41:00 GMT

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

EPA drops rules easing controls on power plants

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Six weeks before leaving office, the Bush administration is giving up on an effort to ease restrictions on pollution from coal-burning power plants, a key plank of its original energy agenda and one that put the president at odds with environmentalists his entire eight years in the White House.

President George W. Bush had hoped to make both changes to air pollution regulations final before leaving office on Jan. 20. In the midst of a coal-fired power plant construction boom, the rules would have made it easier for energy companies to expand existing facilities and to erect new power plants in areas of the country that meet air quality standards.

But the Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday conceded that it didn't have enough time to complete the rules changes, which were undermined by a federal court decision earlier this year that scrapped a signature component of Bush's clean air policies.

The EPA, in a statement, said that it ''will continue to advocate for the important health benefits'' the initiatives would have achieved.

Environmentalists, however, said the decision would leave intact for the incoming Obama administration the strongest tools under the law for dealing with power plant pollution.

''It's stunning. This is the most high profile prize sought by the utility industry,'' said John Walke, a lawyer with the Natural Resources Defense Council. ''It would have entangled the incoming administration up in a new rulemaking process while causing harm in many parts of the country.''

EPA Drops Rules Easing Controls on Power Plants
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Lisa Jackson in line to be first black EPA chief


In this Jan. 18, 2006, file photo New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Lisa Jackson speaks at a news conference in Trenton, N.J. Jackson was recently named as New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine's chief of staff. Democratic officials say President-elect Barack Obama intends to nominate former New Jersey Environmental Protection Commissioner Lisa Jackson for environmental protection agency administrator. (AP Photo/Mike Derer, File) WASHINGTON (AP) — Lisa Jackson is in line to become the first African-American to lead the Environmental Protection Agency.

President-elect Barack Obama intends to announce Jackson as EPA administrator in the coming weeks, barring unforeseen circumstances that derail his plans, according to Democratic officials close to the transition.

Jackson, a Princeton University-educated chemical engineer, would take the helm at the agency at a time of record-low morale and when it is still grappling with how to respond to a 2007 Supreme Court decision that said it could regulate the greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.

During the Bush administration, the White House has at times overruled the advice of the EPA's scientific advisers and the agency's staff on issues ranging from air pollution to global warming.

Supporters say Jackson, 46, has the experience to steer the agency down a new path.

She spent 16 years at the EPA in Washington and in New York before being hired at the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection in 2002, an agency that has been riddled by budget cuts and personnel shortages. Jackson was named the head of the department in 2006 by Gov. Jon Corzine, overseeing environmental regulation in a state plagued by pollution problems and home to the most hazardous waste sites in the country. She left earlier this month to take a job as Corzine's chief of staff.

Lisa Jackson in line to be first black EPA chief

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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Schwarzenegger tells U.N.: Green rules help markets

POZNAN, Poland (Reuters) - Green regulations will help both the environment and ailing economies, California's Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger told a 187-nation U.N. climate conference on Monday.

"Of course, there are some people who say that we can't afford the fight against global warming while our economies are down," he said in a video message on the sidelines of the December 1-12 U.N. meeting in Poznan, western Poland.

"But the exact opposite is true," he said.

California, which is the world's fifth biggest economy on its own, has been leading other U.S. states in the fight against climate change.

"The green rules and regulations that will help save our planet will also revive our economies," the governor aid.

Schwarzenegger tells U.N.: Green rules help markets
Tue, 09 Dec 2008 13:52:09 GMT

Obama vows to end global warming 'denial' after Gore talks

US president-elect Barack Obama (L) and former vice president Al Gore meet at the Transition Office in Chicago. Obama said Tuesday his administration would brook no further delay in tackling climate change after discussing global warming with Gore.(AFP/Nicholas Kamm)AFP - President-elect Barack Obama said Tuesday his administration would brook no further delay in tackling climate change after discussing global warming with former vice president Al Gore.

Obama vows to end global warming 'denial' after Gore talks (AFP)
Tue, 09 Dec 2008 21:02:48 GMT

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Recycling goes from boom to bust as economy stalls

WSU Waste Management photo

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- Norm Steenstra's budgeting worries mount with each new load of cardboard, aluminum cans and plastics jugs dumped at West Virginia's largest county recycling center.

Faced with a dramatic slump in the recycling market, the director of the Kanawha County Solid Waste Authority has cut 20 of his 24 employees' work week to four days from five, shuttered six of the authority's drop-off stations and is urging residents to hoard their recyclables after informing municipalities with curbside recycling programs that the center will accept only paper until further notice.

''The market is just not there anymore,'' Steenstra said.

Just months after riding an incredible high, the recycling market has tanked almost in lockstep with the global economic meltdown. As consumer demand for autos, appliances and new homes dropped, so did the steel and pulp mills' demand for scrap, paper and other recyclables.

Cardboard that sold for about $135 a ton in September is now going for $35 a ton. Plastic bottles have fallen from 25 cents to 2 cents a pound. Aluminum cans dropped nearly half to about 40 cents a pound, and scrap metal tumbled from $525 a gross ton to about $100.

Recycling Goes From Boom to Bust as Economy Stalls

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Monday, December 8, 2008

Birds try to adapt as suburbs replace forests

University of Washington researchers have found that development brings not necessarily extinction to native bird species, but replacement with new native species colonizing the suburban environments that used to be forests.

By Lynda V. Mapes, Seattle Times staff reporter

A killdeer picks its way along the beauty bark in the landscaping strip that wraps this stormwater-management pond, so new it still bears the ridges of bulldozer tracks. Mallards flap up from the landscaping fabric.

They are brave colonizers of a new environment that was a forest just last year. Across Puget Sound, landscapes are being transformed by development, and bird populations are changing along with them, University of Washington researchers have learned.

By tracking 27 research plots on the suburban fringe of King and Snohomish counties over eight years, researchers found development brings not necessarily extinction but replacement, with new native species colonizing the suburban environments that used to be forests.

Researchers did something no one in this region has done before: They looked not only at local bird populations, but also at which birds were surviving and reproducing over time, leading to a change in the structure of the local bird community.

"It's a change in who's top," said biologist John Marzluff, who led the study.

Spreading suburbs lure birds of a different feather

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Sunday, December 7, 2008

Climate change: Sci-fi solutions no longer in the margins

View of a melting glaciar in Ecuador. With political efforts to tackle global warming advancing slower than a Greenland glacier, schemes for saving Earth's climate system that once were dismissed as crazy or dangerous are gaining in status.(AFP/File/Jorge Vinueza)AFP - With political efforts to tackle global warming advancing slower than a Greenland glacier, schemes for saving Earth's climate system that once were dismissed as crazy or dangerous are gaining in status. ...

"The notion of deploying geo-engineering research and even commercialising geo-engineering is enjoying a level of respectability in science policy circles that would have been unthinkable even three years ago," says Jim Thomas of Canadian-based watchdog group, ETC.

One reason is "the level of panic" surrounding greenhouse-gas levels, which are growing at around three percent a year and are now more than a third greater than before the Industrial Revolution, says Thomas.

Another, he suggests, is "an astonishing switch" by former climate sceptics and conservative lobby groups in the United States.

After years of denial or contestation, these powerful forces have now suddenly accepted that global warming is a problem.

Climate change: Sci-fi solutions no longer in the margins (AFP)
Sun, 07 Dec 2008 10:31:41 GMT

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Obama proposal ties economic stimulus to energy plan


WASHINGTON — President-elect Barack Obama and leaders in Congress are fashioning a plan to pour billions of dollars into a jobs program to jolt the economy and lay the groundwork for a more energy-efficient one.

The details and cost of the so-called green-jobs program are still unclear, but a senior Obama aide, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss a work in progress, said it would probably include the weatherizing of hundreds of thousands of homes, the installation of “smart meters” to monitor and reduce home energy use, and billions of dollars in grants to state and local governments for mass transit and infrastructure projects.

The green component of the much larger stimulus plan would cost at least $15 billion a year, and perhaps considerably more, depending on how the projects were defined, aides working on the package said.

Proposal Ties Economic Stimulus to Energy Plan

Published: December 3, 2008

Solar car completes 1st ever round-the-world trip

Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Yvo de Boer, greets journalists as he arrives in a solar taxi to the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Poznan, Poland, Thursday, Dec 4, 2008.  The solar vehicle, built by Louis Palmer from Switzerland with the help of Swiss scientists and driven by Palmer has traveled around the world setting a world record of 52,000 km, or 32,300 miles through 38 countries using only solar energy. (AP Photo/Alik Keplicz)AP - The first solar-powered car to travel around the world ended its journey at the U.N. climate talks Thursday, arriving with the message that clean technologies are available now to stop global warming.

Solar car completes 1st ever round-the-world trip (AP)
Thu, 04 Dec 2008 13:24:24 GMT

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

US states sign tropical forest pledge

The states of California, Illinois, and Wisconsin and six states in Brazil and Indonesia agreed today to work together on new programmes for protecting and restoring tropical forests as an essential but so far untapped strategy to combat climate change.

A memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed by California Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, along with the governors of Illinois and Wisconsin,and the governors or emissaries of Amazonas, Pará, Mato Grosso and Amapá states in Brazil and Papua and Aceh provinces in Indonesia, represents a big leap forward for the concept of carbon emitters in industrialised societies paying for the service provided by tropical forests in absorbing and storing atmospheric carbon dioxide.


“When a tropical forest is destroyed, it hurts everyone, no matter where they live,” said Peter Seligmann, the chairman and CEO of Conservation International (CI). “The memorandum between California and these Brazilian and Indonesian states and provinces containing some of the world’s last remaining intact tropical forests is a welcome and necessary step. California’s leadership in this area will help stabilise the Earth’s climate by providing effective incentives to conserve these threatened tropical ecosystems that are so critical for supporting the livelihoods of forest-dwelling communities and indigenous peoples”.

US states sign tropical forest pledge

EPA to gut mountaintop mining rule protecting streams

By Renee Schoof and Bill Estep, McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON - The Environmental Protection  Agency on Tuesday approved a last-minute rule change by the Bush administration that will allow coal companies to bury streams under the rocks leftover from mining.

The 1983 rule prohibited dumping the fill from mountaintop removal mining within 100 feet of streams. In practice, the government hadn't been enforcing the rule. Government figures show that 535 miles of streams were buried or diverted from 2001 to 2005, more than half of them in the mountains of Appalachia. Along with the loss of the streams has been an increase of erosion and flooding.

The 11th hour change before President George W. Bush leaves office would eliminate a tool that citizens groups have used in lawsuits to keep mining waste out of streams. Mining companies had been pushing for the change for years.

It also means that President-elect Barack Obama's administration will have to decide whether to try to restore and enforce the rule, a process that could take many months of new rulemaking. Obama's transition team declined to comment on its plans on Tuesday.

Another option would be for opponents to go through the courts. Opponents have argued that the rule change is illegal.

EPA to gut mountaintop mining rule protecting streams (McClatchy Newspapers)
Wed, 03 Dec 2008 00:52:00 GMT

Oregon farmers reap stability from wind

image WASCO, Ore. (AP) _ Hilderbrand Lane slices through acres of wheat fields as it heads east out of Wasco, a tiny town burrowed into Oregon's poorest county. Stubble from summer's harvest bristles in every direction. Nothing interrupts the tawny expanse until the road rises to expose hundreds of wind turbines. Tall and shimmery in the midday haze, they overpower the landscape, striking, unsettling.

"I like em," says John Hilderbrand, 81, a straight-talking but jocular wheat farmer who lives along his namesake road in the two-story house his grandfather built in 1900. "They're grinding out dollars."

Hilderbrand, the first in Sherman County to allow turbines on his land, reaps about $30,000 a year in lease payments. And the checks come without fail, he says, unlike the income from his wheat operation, which is squirrelly as the weather.

"Fact is, I don't see any disadvantages," says Hilderbrand, who likes talking about the wind almost as much as spinning yarns about rogue bears, stuffed rats and clueless urban slickers who insist on calling the county's rich glacial silt "dirt" not "soil."

Oregan farmers reaps stability from wind

Anti-whaling activists joined by Daryl Hannah

[Be sure to check out Whale Wars, which documents last year's Sea Shepherd campaign against whale poaching. --Jim]

CANBERRA (Reuters) - Hardline anti-whaling activists prepared on Tuesday to pursue Japan's Antarctic whaling fleet with support from Daryl Hannah, who criticized Greenpeace for opting out of the annual chase.

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, which clashed last year with the eight-ship fleet, bombarding it with stink bombs and briefly boarding a harpoon vessel, departs Australia on Wednesday for the Southern Ocean.

Hannah, who starred in the 1980s films Blade Runner and Splash, will travel part-way on Sea Shepherd flagship Steve Irwin.

Sea Shepherd will be alone during this year's five-month hunt, in which the Japanese aim to cull close to 1,000 endangered fin and minke whales under an international loophole allowing scientific whaling for research.

Anti-whaling activists joined by Daryl Hannah
Tue, 02 Dec 2008 13:27:12 GMT

Monday, December 1, 2008

VIVACE - Vortex Induced Vibrations for Aquatic Clean Energy

Very cool:

Obama's EPA and Interior Dept. will be busy undoing Bush damage

By Juliet Eilperin, Washington Post Staff Writer

Few federal agencies are expected to undergo as radical a transformation under President-elect Barack Obama as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior Department, which have been at the epicenter of many of the Bush administration's most intense scientific and environmental controversies.


In June 2007, Obama told reporters in Reno, Nev., that he would not hesitate to reverse many of the environmental policies Bush has enacted by executive order.

"I think the slow chipping away against clean air and clean water has been deeply disturbing," Obama added. "Much of it hasn't gone through Congress. It was done by fiat. That is something that can be changed by an administration, in part by reinvigorating the EPA, which has been demoralized."

Friday, November 28, 2008; Page A02

EPA, Interior Dept. Chiefs Will Be Busy Erasing Bush's Mark

Obama buzz felt at global climate talks

AP - The president-elect won't be there, but an Obama buzz will crackle through the conference hall when negotiators gather Monday for a final push toward a sweeping new global warming treaty.

"America is back," says Sen. John Kerry, underscoring that Barack Obama's election signals a U.S. intent to regain a leadership role on climate change.

"After eight years of obstruction and delay and denial, the United States is going to rejoin the world community in tackling this global challenge," said the Massachusetts Democrat, in line to become chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Obama buzz felt at global climate talks (AP)
Sun, 30 Nov 2008 19:39:03 GMT

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