Sep 15, 2014

FREE Public Health Disaster Research Response Webinar

You are invited to attend a webinar focused on such public health emergencies and the ways in which researchers are working to better understand disaster-related health effects. Disaster research is important to improving responders' knowledge and skills, as well as informing public health and healthcare professionals. Collecting data immediately following a disaster is extremely difficult and dangerous and must be done without hampering disaster response. How are government officials and academics responding to this need? Please mark your calendar for an upcoming webinar that will address this timely issue.

Public Health Disaster Research Response
September 19, 2014, 1:00-2:15 p.m. EDT
To participate, please see Webinar Information at:

Description: Public health emergencies pose many adverse health effects for local communities and the first responders. However, there is a recognized knowledge gap regarding the environmental exposures during the disaster and the potential health outcomes. The recent call to action, "Research as Part of Public Health Emergency Response," authored by the NIH Director, the HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, and the CDC Director, voiced the critical need for well-designed, effectively executed research to address these pressing knowledge gaps. These public health emergencies present challenges to the research community because of their unpredictable onset as well as their health and environmental effects. Currently, human subjects research in the period immediately following disasters is hampered by the time needed to design protocols and implement data collection, so the opportunity to acquire crucial early epidemiologic, medical, and environmental data and samples is usually missed. The NIEHS, HHS, other federal agencies, and the academic community are working to address this need.

In this webinar, we will hear about the current Public Health Disaster Research Response (DR2) and Science Preparedness efforts to help respond to the need for timely research.

Anthony Barone, M.P.H.
Senior Management Analyst - Emergency Management, GAP Solutions, Inc.
Assigned to the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR)

Aubrey Miller, M.D., M.P.H.
Senior Medical Advisor, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

Sharon Petronella Croisant, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston

We look forward to your participation!

California deems carpooling via all ride-share services illegal

CNET-  California regulators have sent warning letters to Uber, Lyft and Sidecar to say that their new carpool features are illegal.

Sidecar revealed Thursday that it received the letter from the California Public Utilities Commission, which said the ride-sharing service was breaking the law by testing its new Shared Rides, or carpool, feature.

A Lyft spokesperson told CNET that it too received a similar letter. Initially, Uber told CNET that it didn't get the letter but now the company says it was indeed contacted by the CPUC. The CPUC also confirmed with CNET that it sent two copies of the letter to Uber -- one to company CEO Travis Kalanick and one to Chairman Garrett Camp -- on September 8.

"Uber recently announced its intent to offer a new transportation service known as UberPool," the CPUC letter reads. "Uber has not yet approached the Commission regarding the UberPool service... Uber's proposed transportation service violates existing California law."

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Solar Powered Technology Enhances Oil Recovery

Royal Dutch Shell has teamed with a sovereign investment fund from Oman to invest $53 million in a company that manufactures solar power equipment designed for increasing oil production. Glasspoint Solar Inc. installs aluminum mirrors near oil fields that concentrate solar radiation on insulated tubes containing water. The steam generated from heating the water is injected into oil fields to recover heavy crude oil. This concept of enhanced oil recovery. involves high pressure injection of hot fluids to recover heavy crude oil. The use of renewable energy like solar power makes great economic sense, as the fuel cost associated with this enhanced oil recovery technology is practically zero. Shell hopes to employ this technology in its oil fields in Oman. The company hopes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with enhanced oil recovery operations. A large-scale successful implementation of this technology could be a game changer for major consumers like India and the U.S.. Both have substantial oil reserves, but are unable to tap them due to high costs involved in heavy oil recovery.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Lead pollution is costing much of the world 5-20 IQ points

According to one US study, each microgram per decilitre increase in blood lead results in a 1 per cent drop in IQ. Richard Canfield, a senior researcher in Cornell's Division of Nutritional Sciences and senior author of a study in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives said: "We found that the average IQ scores of children with blood level leads of only 5 to 10 micrograms were about five points lower than the IQ scores of children with less than five micrograms."

Other researchers have found that the impact is greater at the lowest levels. The world would have hundreds of thousands more geniuses were it not for the effects of lead.

According to recent research, levels of airborne heavy metal particles are 10-20 times higher on average in China than in the US.

Hong Kong and China have levels of 10 micrograms - double the 5 microgram US pollution standard.Governments around the world are slowly tightening legislation regulating air polluters, but enforcement lags regulation and is not enough to keep pace with the increase in pollution generated by economic growth

Read more »// Next Big Future

Why China’s Insatiable Appetite For Coal Has Likely Peaked

China's run as the world's most voracious consumer of coal may be coming to an end.

A recent report from Greenpeace found that China's coal consumption declined in the first half of this year and new Chinese government data suggests that the country's coal imports have dropped. Estimates indicate that by the end of the year, China's coal imports could be 8 percent below 2013 levels.

China imported 18.86 million tonnes of coal in August, thelowest level since September 2012.

Part of the reduced demand is due to a slowing Chinese economy. After years of double-digit growth rates, China's GDP expanded by just 7.7 percent in 2013, and it couldstruggle to hit its 7.5 percent target this year. Some analysts are predicting an average growth rate of only 6 percent in the next few years.

But a lower GDP growth rate is only part of the reason. As the Sierra Club's Justin Guay points out, China may be beginning to "decouple" its growth from coal consumption. In other words, China's economy could continue to expand even while its coal consumption drops – something unthinkable not long ago.

That's due in large part to China's declared "war on pollution,"announced earlier this year.

Years of increasingly choking smog have sparked public anger and even led to protests. In 2013, a government survey of 74 Chinese cities found that all had pollution levels that exceeded levels the World Health Organization deems safe.

"We will resolutely declare war against pollution as we declared war against poverty," Premier Li Keqiang said in March. The plan calls for the closure of old and dirty steel, cement, and coal plants: An estimated 1,725 small-scale dirty coal plants are expected to be shuttered. The government also declared it would spend $275 billion in the next three years to reduce pollution.

China has also set up environmental courts, instituted fines for offenders of environmental standards, granted non-governmental organizations the right to sue polluters, and now requires the nation's largest factories to disclose pollution data to the public.

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Sep 13, 2014

Chernobyl’s Hot Mess, “the Elephant’s Foot,” Is Still Lethal

After just 30 seconds of exposure, dizziness and fatigue will find you a week later. Two minutes of exposure and your cells will soon begin to hemorrhage; four minutes: vomiting, diarrhea, and fever. 300 seconds and you have two days to live. 

By the fall of 1986, the emergency crews fighting to contain the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl made it into a steam corridor beneath failed reactor Number 4. Inside this chamber they found black lava that had oozed straight from the core. The most famous formation was a solid flow that their radiation sensors firmly told them not to approach. With cameras pushed in from around a corner, the workers dubbed the dimly lit mass "the Elephant's Foot." According to readings taken at the time, the still hot portion of molten core put out enough radiation to give a lethal dose in 300 seconds.

The Elephant's Foot could be the most dangerous piece of waste in the world.

Hot Zone

During a routine test on April 26, 1986, reactor Number 4 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant experienced a power surge that triggered an emergency shutdown. It did not work. The attempt to manage the surge in power and the alarming increase in the core's temperature caused an even larger power surge. Control rods that are used to manage core temperature were inserted too late. Their insertion into the hot core caused the rods themselves to crack and fracture, locking them in place. Heat and power output continued to rise until the water that was used to cool the entire reactor vaporized, generating massive amounts of pressure. The first explosion from the steam inside the reactor was enough to send the 4-million-pound lid of the reactor assembly through the roof of the building. Now catastrophically damaged, the remaining cooling water from broken channels seeped into the reactor as well, turning directly into steam as it touched the increasingly hot nuclear fuel rods. A second, even more massive explosion followed shortly after the first, belching broken core material into the air, spreading fire and radioactive detritus.

With a glowing heart no longer shielded by tons of steel and concrete, the core could no longer be cooled. It began to melt.

When we say that a nuclear reactor "melts down," it's not simply illustrative language. The radioactive materials used as fuel get hotter and hotter, due to their unstinting emission of high-energy particles, until they literally melt, turning into something like lava. At Chernobyl, the loss of coolant caused a meltdown of the fuel, some of which was scattered into the atmosphere. Much of it however, flowed into the bottom of the reactor vessel and eventually melted through it. Oozing through pipes and eating through concrete, the radioactive lava flow from reactor Number 4 eventually cooled enough to solidfy. The result was a collection of stalactites and stalagmites, steam valves clogged with hardened lava, and the large black mass that would later be dubbed the Elephant's Foot.

Please continue reading from:

Researchers develop novel supercapacitor architecture that provides two times more energy and power compared to supercapacitors commercially available today

Improved Supercapacitors for Super Batteries, Electric Vehicles

 ( — Researchers at the University of California, Riverside have developed a novel nanometer scale ruthenium oxide anchored nanocarbon graphene foam architecture that improves the performance of supercapacitors, a development that could mean faster acceleration in electric vehicles and longer battery life in portable electronics.

The researchers found that supercapacitors, an energy storage device like batteries and fuel cells, based on transition metal oxide modified nanocarbon graphene foam electrode could work safely in aqueous electrolyte and deliver two times more energy and power compared to supercapacitors commercially available today.

microscopic images

(a) Schematic illustration of the preparation process of RGM nanostructure foam. SEM images of (b–c) as-grown GM foam (d) Lightly loaded RGM, and (e) heavily loaded RGM.

The foam electrode was successfully cycled over 8,000 times with no fading in performance. The findings were outlined in a recently published paper, "Hydrous Ruthenium Oxide Nanoparticles Anchored to Graphene and Carbon Nanotube Hybrid Foam for Supercapacitors," in the journal Nature Scientific Reports.

The paper was written by graduate student Wei Wang; Cengiz S. Ozkan, a mechanical engineering professor at UC Riverside's Bourns College of EngineeringMihrimah Ozkan, an electrical engineering professor; Francisco Zaera, a chemistry professor; Ilkeun Lee, a researcher in Zaera's lab; and other graduate students Shirui Guo, Kazi Ahmed and Zachary Favors.

Supercapacitors (also known as ultracapacitors) have garnered substantial attention in recent years because of their ultra-high charge and discharge rate, excellent stability, long cycle life and very high power density.

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Pesticides in U.S. Streams and Rivers: Occurrence and Trends during 1992–2011 - Environmental Science & Technology (ACS Publications)

During the 20 years from 1992 to 2011, pesticides were found at concentrations that exceeded aquatic-life benchmarks in many rivers and streams that drain agricultural, urban, and mixed-land use watersheds. Overall, the proportions of assessed streams with one or more pesticides that exceeded an aquatic-life benchmark were very similar between the two decades for agricultural (69% during 1992−2001 compared to 61% during 2002−2011) and mixed-land-use streams (45% compared to 46%). Urban streams, in contrast, increased from 53% during 1992−2011 to 90% during 2002−2011, largely because of fipronil and dichlorvos. The potential for adverse effects on aquatic life is likely greater than these results indicate because potentially important pesticide compounds were not included in the assessment. Human-health benchmarks were much less frequently exceeded, and during 2002−2011, only one agricultural stream and no urban or mixed-land-use streams exceeded human-health benchmarks for any of the measured pesticides. Widespread trends in pesticide concentrations, some downward and some upward, occurred in response to shifts in use patterns primarily driven by regulatory changes and introductions of new pesticides.

Please continue reading from: 
Environmental Science & Technology (ACS Publications)

Sep 12, 2014

RT via @Sustainablog - Coffee Processing Wastewater: a Great Source of Energy

SustainablogWhat do you do with your coffee waste? You may add the grounds to your compost bin, or put them directly onto your roses and other plants as a fertilizer. If you're in the business of coffee processing, though, you're dealing with much more waste… particularly wastewater. According to Dutch sustainable agriculture non-profit UTZ Certified, every cup of coffee we drink requires 140 litres (nearly 40 gallons) of water to process. After that water's used, it's full of organic material. If it simply gets discharged into other water sources, as it often does in the developing world, it's not only polluting water and putting wildlife and people at risk, but it's also creating methane emissions.

Not exactly the kind of guilt you want to deal with first thing in the morning, right? Of course, the people living near these facilities don't want their water dirtied up, either. UTZ Certified has been experimenting with a system that not only cleans up the water, but turns the methane into biogas that can be used by the facility, local farmers, and other nearby residents. After four years of testing in nineteen pilot sites around Central America, the organization has released its results… and they look good. Among the findings:

  • The wastewater treatment was able to dispose of 80-90% of water contamination;
  • Biogas production helped reduce firewood use for local communities, or, in the case of the largest facilities, power portions of the processing machinery;
  • Carbon emissions were decreased by 8-9 tons per community because of the shift away from firewood.

Not bad for initial efforts to deal with these environmental issues.  The experiment was als0 able to cut the amount of water needed for processing in half.

Needless to say, UTZ Certified feels pretty good about these findings, and is now introducing the technology into Peru and Brazil. With more funding, the organization would love to take the wastewater treatment system to coffee producing and processing regions in Africa and Asia.

No doubt, developing world coffee producers need the first shot at this technology: their options for fresh water are often limited. But I'd love to consider the potential for coffee processing here in the developed world, too… no doubt there's wastewater coming from our facilities that could be put to productive use.

Thoughts? Ideas? Share them with us in the comments.

The post Coffee Processing Wastewater: a Great Source of Energy appeared first on Sustainablog.

RT @Sustainablog - Geothermal Power Approaches 12,000 Megawatts Worldwide

SustainablogIn 2013, world geothermal electricity-generating capacity grew 3 percent to top 11,700 megawatts across 24 countries. Although some other renewable energy technologies are seeing much faster growth—wind power has expanded 21 percent per year since 2008, for example, while solar power has grown at a blistering 53 percent annual rate—this was geothermal's best year since the 2007-08 financial crisis.

World Cumulative Installed Geothermal Electricity-Generating Capacity, 1950-2013

Geothermal power's relatively slower growth is not due to a paucity of energy to tap. On the contrary, the upper six miles of the earth's crust holds 50,000 times the energy embodied in the world's oil and gas reserves. But unlike the relative ease of measuring wind speed and solar radiation, test-drilling to assess deep heat resources prior to building a geothermal power plant is uncertain and costly. The developer may spend 15 percent of the project's capital cost during test-drilling, with no guarantee of finding a viable site.

Once built, however, a geothermal power plant can generate electricity 24 hours a day with low operation and maintenance costs—importantly because there is zero fuel cost. Over the life of the generator, geothermal plants are often cost-competitive with all other power sources, including fossil fuel and nuclear plants. This is true even without considering the many indirect costs of fossil- and nuclear-generated electricity that are not reflected in customers' monthly bills.

The top three countries in installed geothermal power capacity—the United States, the Philippines, and Indonesia—account for more than half the world total. California hosts nearly 80 percent of the 3,440 megawatts of U.S. geothermal capacity; another 16 percent is found in Nevada.

Geothermal Electricity-Generating Capacity in Leading Countries, 2013

Despite having installed more geothermal power capacity than any other country, the United States currently generates less than 1 percent of its electricity from the earth's heat. Iceland holds the top spot in that category, using geothermal power for 29 percent of its electricity. Close behind is El Salvador, where one quarter of electricity comes from geothermal plants. Kenya follows at 19 percent. Next are the Philippines and Costa Rica, both at 15 percent, and New Zealand, at 14 percent.

Geothermal Share of Electricity Generation in Top 10 Countries, Latest Year

Indonesia has the most ambitious geothermal capacity target. It is looking to develop 10,000 megawatts by 2025. Having only gained 150 megawatts in the last four years, this will be a steep climb. But a new law passed by the government in late August 2014 should help move industry activity in that direction: it increases the per-kilowatt-hour purchase price guaranteed to geothermal producers and ends geothermal power's classification as mining activity. (Much of Indonesia's untapped geothermal resource lies in forested areas where mining is illegal.) Even before the new law took effect, geothermal company Ormat began construction on the world's largest single geothermal power plant, a 330-megawatt project in North Sumatra, in June 2014. The plant should generate its first electricity in 2018.

Indonesia is just one of about 40 countries that could get all their electricity from indigenous geothermal power—a list that includes Ecuador, Ethiopia, Iceland, Kenya, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, and Tanzania. Nearly all of them are developing countries, where the high up-front costs of geothermal development are often prohibitive.

To help address this mismatch of geothermal resources and funds, the World Bank launched its Global Geothermal Development Plan in March 2013. By December, donors had come up with $115 million of the initial $500 million target to identify and fund test-drilling for promising geothermal projects in the developing world. The Bank hopes that the experience gained from these projects will lead to lower costs for the geothermal industry overall. This would be good news on many fronts—simultaneously reducing energy poverty, air pollution, carbon emissions, and costly fossil fuel imports.

For data and additional resources visit www.

The post Geothermal Power Approaches 12,000 Megawatts Worldwide appeared first on Sustainablog.

Britain's nuclear clean-up bill to soar by billions

The Independent has an article on the UK's ever increasing bill for cleaning up old nuclear power sites - Britain's nuclear clean-up bill to soar by billions 'because of Government incompetence'.
The estimated cost for decommissioning over the next century went up from a £63.8bn estimate in 2011-12 to £69.8bn in 2012-13, with more increases expected in the coming years. This hike is nearly all down to the troubled clean-up of the Sellafield nuclear facility in Cumbria, one of the world's most hazardous and fiendishly complicated decontamination sites. NMP had been accused of chronic mismanagement after a series of delays and budget overruns on Sellafield projects, including problems involved in the construction of a storage facility for radioactive sludge.
Please continue reading from: Peak Energy

The Gulf Is Still So Far From Recovering. Just Ask This Oyster Farmer.

John Tesvich is a fourth-generation oyster farmer in Empire, a tiny Gulf Coast enclave south of New Orleans. He's spent his life working in the rich oyster beds here, the most productive in the nation, and has weathered his share of storms: During Hurricane Katrina, his house ended up under 17 feet of water. But last week, as he navigated his 40-foot oyster boat out into open water, he admitted that the turmoil this region has faced in the last decade was beginning to wear him down.

"A lot has changed over the years," he said. "It seems like one crisis after another sometimes."

One crisis was particularly damaging to Tesvich's industry: The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The fourth anniversary of the busted undersea well's sealing (after it gushed crude into the Gulf for nearly five months) is coming up next week, and Tesvich, who also chairs the oyster industry's main statewide lobbying group, says his crop is still struggling to rebound.

Tesvich got some good news last week, when a federal judge in New Orleans found that BP's "willful misconduct" and "gross negligence" had been the principle causes of the spill, a ruling that could eventually force BP to pay billions for ecological restoration in the Gulf. But for oystermen here, whose day-to-day income depends on these reefs, those dollars still seem very far away.

Please read full and follow at: Mother Jones

If Tesla Can Run Its Gigafactory On 100% Renewables, Why Can't Others?

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said his company's Gigafactory battery plant, the world's largest, will be "self contained" and run on solar, wind and geothermal energy. The obvious problem with renewable sources is that they're intermittent at any given location, but on a larger scale they're quite predictable and reliable, according to Tom Lombardo, a professor of engineering and technology. Lombardo points out that Tesla isn't necessarily going off-grid, but using a strategy of "net metering" where the factory will produce more renewable energy than it needs, and receive credits in return from its utility when renewables aren't available. So why can't other manufacturing facilities do the same? Is what Tesla is doing not necessarily transferable to other industries? Sam Jaffe, principal research analyst with Navigant Research, believes Tesla's choice of locations — Reno — and its product is optimal for using renewable and not something that can be reproduced by every industry.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Sep 11, 2014

Replacing coal with biogas #renewable #energy

RNE has a look at some CEFC programs to increase the use of biogas in Australia - Major beef processor turns to biogas to halve power bills.
One of Australia's largest meat processors – and a major regional employer, providing 830 jobs – is among the latest recipients of funding from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, in a deal to co-finance a major on-site energy project at northern NSW-based Bindaree Beef.

The CEFC announced on Tuesday it would provide up to $15 million, together with additional bank finance and an Australian Government Clean Technology Investment Program grant, to fund the installation of a biodigester and energy efficient rendering facilities to improve the efficiency and competitiveness of operations at Bindaree Beef.

As well as the biodigester, the funding will go towards development of an electricity generation facility using biogas (produced by the biodigester) as fuel, and a new more energy efficient rendering plant to replace the existing coal-fired plant and eliminate the use of coal. Screen Shot 2014-07-22 at 10.37.13 AM

The new equipment is expected to halve the company's power bills and cut its annual carbon emissions by three quarters. The biogas plant will also create a new business revenue stream through sales of organic fertiliser – a by-product of the energy conversion process.

Bindaree Beef Director John Newton said securing finance from the CEFC – a $10 billion Labor government initiative, which remains on the Abbott government's chopping block – had been integral to securing the interest of additional private finance, which, along with the government grant, would cover the total project cost. ...

In March this year, the CEFC contributed $20 million to a funding deal with Quantum Power Limited – Australia's leading biogas company – to catalyse up to $40 million in biogas infrastructure aimed at helping farmers and manufacturers cut costs and boost productivity in the face of rising electricity prices. 

Please read full and follow at:  Peak Energy

Is Storage Necessary for Renewable Energy? has a look at an Amory Lovins presentation on our ability to switch to 100% renewable energy even without energy storage - Is Storage Necessary for Renewable Energy?.
Physicist and energy expert Amory Lovins, chief scientist at The Rocky Mountain Institute, recently released a video in which he claims that renewable energy can meet all of our energy needs without the need for a fossil fuel or nuclear baseload generation. There's nothing unusual about that - many people have made that claim - but he also suggests that this can be done without a lot of grid-level storage. Instead, Lovins describes a "choreography" between supply and demand, using predictive computer models to anticipate production and consumption, and intelligent routing to deliver power where it's needed. This "energy dance," combined with advances in energy efficiency, will allow us to meet all of our energy needs without sacrificing reliability.

Okay, so there is a little storage involved: ice-storage air conditioning and smart charging of electric vehicles. But where others, including myself, have assumed that large storage devices will need to be added to the grid, Lovins thinks that massive storage facilities are unnecessary, and he presents compelling evidence to support his claim, including actual data from Europe and computer models from NREL. ...

Lovins presents this in the context of storage vs intelligent routing of electricity - which one do we need? That's a false dichotomy. There will always be a need for storage since many applications are off grid. Obviously storage is needed in order to electrify transportation. So I agree that dynamic routing is the best long term solution for the grid, but we still need to invest in storage technologies. The good thing is that both storage and smart routing can be implemented together, a little at a time, and scaled up gradually.

Please read full and follow at: Peak Energy

Japan JV to build world’s largest floating solar array

RNE has an article on a Japanese plan to building a solar power plant offshore - Japan JV to build world's largest floating solar array.
A Japanese joint venture is set to build what could be the world's largest floating solar project – a 2.9MW PV plant in Hyogo Prefecture, west Japan.

Japanese solar company Kyocera announced the project on its website this week, which it began developing in 2o12, in conjunction with local real estate and industry group, Century Tokyo Leasing, shortly after the introduction of Japan's solar feed-in tariff (FiT). The two companies have already developed 92.8MW of PV across 28 locations in Japan, of which 21.6MW is now online at 11 plants, according to Kyocera, and plan to develop around 60MW of floating PV on roughly 30 sites by May 2015.floating_pv_kyocera_200_150_s_c1

This latest floating solar project will consist of two arrays – one 1.7MW, making it the world's largest floating solar plan, and one 1.2MW – which are designed to float on the surface of reservoirs. The use of floating solar technology addresses both the energy deficits created by Japan's shift away from nuclear, as well as its chronic shortage of land on which to build large-scale solar projects.

Please read full and follow at: Peak Energy

Grist's David Roberts is back from sabbatical, Reboot or Die Trying

Grist's David Roberts is back from sabbatical, with an article in Outside Online describing his year unplugged from blogging and social media - Reboot or Die Trying.
As my mind began to spin down, I discovered that calm was like a drug. It felt so good, so decadent, just to sit in the early afternoon with my feet propped on the windowsill, watching wind brush the trees in the front yard. I was hooked.

In December, I called psychology professor and researcher Larry D. Rosen, author of iDisorder: Understanding Our Obsession with Technology and Overcoming Its Hold on Us. "I could put an EEG tap on your head and measure the activity while you're sitting at your computer," he said, "and then I could have you go take a walk. What I would likely see is your brain activity diminish rapidly." What this suggests, he said, is that "technology is highly overloading our brains" and, conversely, that "certain things calm our brains." Simple enough.

Rosen mentioned taking lots of short breaks, finding offline social groups, and, of course, meditation, but I kept coming back to walking. Just before I started my sabbatical, my wife bought me one of those wristband fitness trackers that count your steps. (The absurdity of wiring myself for a break from technology did not escape me.) It comes with a built-in goal of 10,000 steps a day—about five miles. Running, you could do that in 40 minutes, but I loathe running with great fervor, so I walked. My dog Forest and I have since logged 1,400 miles on winding urban hikes through Seattle's tucked-away paths, stairways, and parks. That's 2,723,487 steps, but who's counting?

My rambles have taken me through many miles of greenspace, which, as scientists are belatedly discovering, is a kind of wonder drug itself, with many of the same benefits as meditation. When I chatted with researcher and naturopathic physician Alan Logan, coauthor of 2012's Your Brain on Nature, he described experiments in which cognitively fatigued subjects are taken on a walk, some through a concrete environment, some through urban greenspace. "You come back and you repeat the cognitive testing," he said, "and whether it's memory recall, target identification, or your attention overall, it's consistently far better after having taken a nature walk."

What's going on? Nature provides what University of Michigan psychologist Stephen Kaplan has termed soft fascinations. (Dibs on the band name.) We are shaped by evolution to heed the ebb and flow of drifting clouds, rustling grass, and singing birds. Unlike voluntary or directed attention—the kind required by, say, a spreadsheet—"effortless attention" produces no fatigue. It's the mental equivalent of floating on your back, and a rested mind is a more productive mind.

Peak Energy

It’s (still) a materialist world, F-150 pick-up, which is its most popular model today, weighs more than 2 tonnes.

Singapore Today has an article on Vaclav Smil's ideas about our dependence on large volumes of raw materials (in opposition to Bucky Fuller's about ephermeralisation) - It's (still) a materialist world.
The guru of modern thinking about the significance of materials is Professor Vaclav Smil of the University of Manitoba, described by Bill Gates as "my favourite author". In his view, physical substances remain central to modern economies in spite of all the advances in information technology, and the apparent evidence of dematerialisation is often misleading.

In his latest book, Making The Modern World, he cites computer-aided design. The Boeing 747, designed in the 1960s, required 75,000 drawings with a total weight of 8 tonnes. Using computer-aided design (CAD) for the 767 in the 1990s did away with all that paper, and cut costs and design time.

However, as Prof Smil points out, the CAD system required computers, data storage, communications, screens and electricity to run. Given the complexity of the systems involved, it is far from obvious that the switch to CAD cut United States use of materials overall.

It is true that in computing power there has been spectacular dematerialisation. All the computers sold in the world in 2011 weighed 60 times as much as the total sold in 1981, but had 40 million times the memory.

But where microchips are not the dominant component of the total design, Prof Smil wrote, there has been no even remotely similar mass decline. In some sectors, technological progress has actually made products more "material". The Ford Model T, one of the first automobiles, weighed 540kg; the F-150 pick-up, which is its most popular model today, weighs more than 2 tonnes.

Prof Smil's conclusion is that while dematerialisation, in the sense of reduced material use for every dollar of gross domestic product, has been a trend for decades and can continue into the future, an absolute reduction in the world's use of natural resources is highly unlikely. If growth continues, at some point those resources will run low.

While we do not know when we will hit the limits of materials usage, we know they are out there somewhere. Tensions such as the dispute over rare earths or rising commodity costs could have serious consequences for growth.

Prof Smil's answer is that we need to think about rational futures of moderated energy and material use. As he admits, though, it is hard to see any political leaders being prepared to offer their citizens less and less in the future; particularly not in emerging economies where billions are hoping to come closer to developed world lifestyles.

Please read full and follow at: Peak Energy

Newly-discovered waste-eating bacteria could help in nuclear waste disposal

Gizmag Emerging Technology Magazine

A bacteria found in England that can survive in harsh alkaline conditions could be used to...

"Extremophile" bacteria have been found thriving in soil samples from a highly alkaline industrial site in Peak District of England. Although the site is not radioactive, the conditions are similar to the alkaline conditions expected to be found in cement-based radioactive waste sites. The researchers say the capability of the bacteria to thrive in such conditions and feed on isosaccharinic acid (ISA) make it a promising candidate for aiding in nuclear waste disposal... Continue Reading Newly-discovered waste-eating bacteria could help in nuclear waste disposal 

Section: Environment 

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Sep 10, 2014

U.S. Renewable Energy Growth in 2014 Dwarfs Fossil Fuel Plant Additions

The U.S. this year has significantly scaled back coal and natural gas power plant additions compared to 2013,

Click to Enlarge

2014 power additions
and solar and wind power capacity is far outpacing the 2013 installation rate, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. No utility-scale coal plants were added in the first six months of 2014, whereas more than 1,500 megawatts of coal-fired power capacity had been added during the same period last year. Natural gas additions were cut roughly in half compared to the first half of 2013, while wind additions more than doubled and solar power increased by 70 percent. The only coal plants scheduled to come online in 2014 are the Kemper plant in Mississippi, which will capture its own carbon emissions, and a small conventional steam coal plant in North Dakota, reflecting the challenging market for coal due to impending federal environmental regulations and competition from natural gas. 
Please continue reading from: Yale Environment 360

Oceans acidifying at fastest rate in 300 million years

Vox - "The current rate of ocean acidification appears unprecedented at least over the last 300 million years," noted a report this week from the World Meteorological Organization.

"The oceans soak up one-quarter of our carbon emissions — and are slowly turning acidic"

That's a big deal — and it's worth unpacking a bit further. The WMO notes that the oceans currently absorb roughly one-quarter of all the carbon dioxide that we emit from our cars, factories, and power plants each year.

That process helps fend off (some) global warming, but it also comes at a cost: As that extra carbon dioxide dissolves in water, it turns into carbonic acid and decreases the pH levels in the oceans.

This is called "ocean acidification" — and it could have terrible consequences for marine life in the decades ahead. More acidic seawater can chew away at coral reefs and kill oysters by making it harder for them to form protective shells. Acidification might also muck up the food supply for key species like Alaska's salmon. One recent study estimated that the loss of mollusks alone could cost the world as much as $100 billion per year by century's end.
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Solvents and microwaves to lower energy and cost of oilsand oil recovery and increase the oil recoverabe []

Next Big Future

Using steam extraction for the oilsands means that nine-tenths of the land above a reservoir can be left intact. There is no need for waste ponds because the sand is left underground and most of the water recovered from the bitumen can be cleaned with distillation for reuse. Steam can also produce bitumen from a reservoir half-a-kilometre underground, whereas strip mining is only economical for deposits less than 70 metres or so from the surface.

The proportion of bitumen produced with steam now stands at 53% and will continue to grow in Canada's oilsands. 

The Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) estimates the total bitumen resource-in-place in Alberta to be approximately 1.8 trillion barrels (which would be greater than all of the world's known conventional reserves). Of this amount, 315 billion barrels are considered potentially recoverable using future technologies and economic conditions, and of that amount, 167.9 billion barrels are considered to be established or proved reserves that can be recovered using current, known technology. 

Of the estimated 1.8 trillion barrels of total bitumen resource-in-place, roughly 536 billion barrels are attributed to carbonate formations. At 406 billion barrels, the Grosmont Formation is by far the largest carbonate reservoir in Alberta

Read more » at NBF

Sep 9, 2014

Tesla Plans To Power Its Gigafactory With Renewables Alone

In his press conference, Elon Musk stated that the factory will produce all of its own energy using a combination of solar, wind, and geothermal. looks at the feasibility of the plans. Spoiler alert: it looks possible, though some storage will be required. Fortunately, if there is one thing the Gigafactory won't be short of it's batteries. From the article: "The numbers don't lie. The site could realistically produce more than 2900 MWh of renewable electricity each day ... 20% more than it needs. These are conservative estimates on production and worst-case estimates on consumption, and it's clear that there's enough renewable energy to run the plant with some to spare."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Bacteria From Bees' Bellies May Fight Persistent Pathogens

Within the past decade, antibiotic resistance has become a critical issue for global health. More and more strains of bacteria have grown tolerant of the typical methods used to kill them, limiting doctors' treatment arsenal and putting the health of patients at risk.

With conventional medications proving ineffective against these determined killers, researchers have been turning to more outside-the-box ideas instead. One of those potential alternatives? Bee honey. Or more specifically, the bacteria found in bee honey.

Researchers at Lund University in Sweden have identified a group of 13 lactic acid bacteria produced by bees that yield a number of unique antimicrobial substances. They believe these substances have helped protect bees' health for millions of years, and they could help protect humans from infection in the future. In a new study, published in the International Wound Journal, the researchers used honey containing these bacteria on several antibiotic-resistant human wound pathogens in the laboratory, effectively vanquishing all of the pathogens.

These therapeutic bacteria are stored in the bee's honey stomach, which is separate from the bee's gut. "It's where the bee stores nectar, regurgitates it, and collects it from the plants," Eile Butler, one of the researchers on the study, tells Popular Science

"A lot of research has been looking back at ancient methods"

However, that doesn't mean you should go guzzling honey from the supermarket just yet. Butler says that consumer honey doesn't contain these bug-battling bacteria, as it has usually been sterilized to eliminate spores and other elements that could cause health problems. Additionally, as honey crystalizes with age, it loses much of its water content, causing these crucial bacteria to die off. So, in order to make their medicinal salves, Butler and her research team reintroduced the good bacteria into honey that had already been sterilized. They then let the bacteria grow for 24 to 48 hours, allowing the microorganisms to produce a multitude of antimicrobial substances. They think that these antimicrobial compounds are what destroy antibiotic-resistant germs.

The honey concoction was tested on a number of pathogens, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Pseudomonas aeruginosa, vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE), and more. The mixture destroyed all of them in a lab setting. Moving one step further, the researchers directly applied the honey salve to 10 horses with persistent wounds. Since then, all of the animals' wounds have fully healed. (Previously, their owners had tried several other methods without success).

The researchers still need to show that their honey concoction is effective against topical human infections. If those clinical trials are successful, Butler is hopeful that the honey could be used to treat infection relatively soon, as it is a natural substance that has been consumed for centuries.

Plus, it wouldn't be the first time honey has been used for medicinal purposes, as the treat is known for its many anti-inflammatory properties. "Ancient Egyptians used honey to dress wounds," says Butler. She notes that many experts have been looking to history for answers on how to defeat antibiotic resistance. "A lot of research has been looking back at these ancient methods, possibly combining them with antibiotics or using them as stand alone treatments."

Please continue reading from: Popular Science 

Sep 5, 2014

How California's one percent is still getting its water

Alternet - While most of California worries, cuts back and braces for the worst of this epic drought, the Golden State's 1-percenters are staying flush with water. While some are obeying public water restrictions and having it shipped in by the truckload to their mansions in the tony exurbs of Santa Barbara County, others are just breaking the rules and paying hefty fines for not obeying local water restrictions.

Politico reports that tanker trucks filled with water make routine deliveries to the grand manors of the rich and famous, carting up to 5,000 gallons of water to the region's wealthiest residents. The beltway newspaper reports that Oprah Winfrey, one of Montecito's richest residents, gets water deliveries on a regular basis to keep things flowing at her 40-acre estate. Oprah, whose water bill from the Montecito Water District was almost $125,000 last year, has cut her municipal water use in half this year, but she still needs massive deliveries of H2O to make it work.

Montecito Journal columnist Bob Hazard, says he would not be surprised if some of the town's wealthiest are "paying as much as $15,000 a month for trucked-in water."

Please read full and follow at: Alternet
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The plastic curse in our oceans

Charles J, Moore, NY Times -  I have just returned with a team of scientists from six weeks at sea conducting research in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch — one of five major garbage patches drifting in the oceans north and south of the equator at the latitude of our great terrestrial deserts. Although it was my 10th voyage to the area, I was utterly shocked to see the enormous increase in the quantity of plastic waste since my last trip in 2009. Plastics of every description, from toothbrushes to tires to unidentifiable fragments too numerous to count floated past our marine research vessel Alguita for hundreds of miles without end. We even came upon a floating island bolstered by dozens of plastic buoys used in oyster aquaculture that had solid areas you could walk on.

Plastics are now one of the most common pollutants of ocean waters worldwide. Pushed by winds, tides and currents, plastic particles form with other debris into large swirling glutinous accumulation zones, known to oceanographers as gyres, which comprise as much as 40 percent of the planet's ocean surface — roughly 25 percent of the entire earth.

No scientist, environmentalist, entrepreneur, national or international government agency has yet been able to establish a comprehensive way of recycling the plastic trash that covers our land and inevitably blows and washes down to the sea. In a 2010 study I conducted of the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers, we extrapolated that some 2.3 billion pieces of plastic — from polystyrene foam to tiny fragments and pellets — had flowed from Southern California's urban centers into its coastal waters in just three days of sampling.

The deleterious consequences of humanity's "plastic footprint" are many, some known and some yet to be discovered. We know that plastics biodegrade exceptionally slowly, breaking into tiny fragments in a centuries-long process. We know that plastic debris entangles and slowly kills millions of sea creatures; that hundreds of species mistake plastics for their natural food, ingesting toxicants that cause liver and stomach abnormalities in fish and birds, often choking or starving them to death. We know that one of the main bait fish in the ocean, the lantern fish, eats copious quantities of plastic fragments, threatening their future as a nutritious food source to the tuna, salmon, and other pelagic fish we consume, adding to the increasing amount of synthetic chemicals unknown before 1950 that we now carry in our bodies.
Please read full and follow from; Charles J, Moore, NY Times

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Sep 4, 2014

Emergency Rule Clarifies WDNR Environmental Review Procedure

Emergency Rule Clarifies WDNR Environmental Review Procedure

On August 31, 2014, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR or Department) published an emergency rule to clarify the environmental review procedures in Wis. Admin. Code ch. NR 150. Chapter NR 150 establishes the procedures WDNR follows to comply with the Wisconsin Environmental Policy Act (WEPA), set forth in Wis. Stat. § 1.11, which requires each state agency to implement an environmental review process, such as an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), to evaluate potential impacts of agency decisions.

Why You Should Care

The proposed emergency rule clarifies the level of environmental review required for a handful of common tasks at WDNR, such as issuing minor source air construction permits, approval and modification of nutrient management plans for WPDES-regulated farms, and approval of plans and specifications for various facilities. If your business is regulated by WDNR, or requires a permit or other determination to be issued by WDNR, the emergency rule may provide guidance as to the level of environmental review that will be required prior to WDNR issuing a permit or determination. Knowing the required level of environmental review can help businesses more accurately plan the timing and cost of a given project.

What Is An Emergency Rule?

Normally, state agencies may only make administrative rules through a process that involves a notice, hearing, legislative review, and publication. Emergency rules are different in that no notice, hearing, or legislative review is required before the rule goes into effect. Instead, emergency rules are subject to notice and public hearing afterthey are adopted as rules.

The emergency rule process is used if the "preservation of the public peace, health, safety, or welfare necessitates placing a rule into effect" before the agency could adopt the rule through standard rulemaking procedures. To become effective, an emergency rule must be proposed by an administrative agency and signed by the governor. The governor must also approve, in writing, the stated emergency situation that warrants an emergency rule. Once signed by the governor, an emergency rule goes into effect when it is published in the state newspaper and it stays in effect for 150 days. In this case, WDNR has stated it will use the 150-day emergency rule period to begin the standard rulemaking procedure to create a permanent rule. A public hearing must be held within 45 days of the adoption of the emergency rule.

College education costs 12 times more than it did 35 years ago

Mother Jones - In the 2012-13 school year, first-year, on-campus tuition averaged $43,000 at four-year, private schools and $21,700 at in-state public schools.

It wasn't always like this: The cost of undergraduate education is 12 times higher than it was 35 years ago, far outpacing inflation. While the indexed price of college tuition and fees skyrocketed by more than 1,122 percent since 1978, the cost of medical care rose less than 600 percent, and the cost of housing and food went up less than 300. 

Hitachi Developing Reactor That Burns Nuclear Waste

Slashdot The problem with nuclear waste is that it needs to be stored for many thousands of years before it's safe, which is a tricky commitment for even the most stable civilization. To make this situation a bit more manageable, Hitachi, in partnership with MIT, the University of Michigan, and the University of California, Berkeley, is working on new reactor designs that use transuranic nuclear waste for fuel; leaving behind only short-lived radioactive elements.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Proprane-producing E. coli provide biosynthetic alternative to fossil fuels

Gizmag Propane is an appealing fuel, easily stored and already used worldwide, but it's extracted from the finite supply of fossil fuels – or is it? Researchers at Imperial College London and the University of Turku have engineered E. coli bacteria that create engine-ready propane out of fatty acids, and in the future, maybe even sunlight. .. Continue Reading Proprane-producing E. coli provide biosynthetic alternative to fossil fuels 

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Greenpeace says everyone should copy Apple, to reduce the damage it does to the environment

Apple is doing more than any other manufacturer to reduce the damage it does to the environment, says Greenpeace. Apple is moving from zero to hero as it attempts to create greener gadgets that put the environment first.

Sep 3, 2014

DHS Publishes Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to Streamline CFATS

From Paint: The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Aug. 18 published in the Federal Register an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) to update its Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program. The agency is seeking comment submissions that will help identify ways to make the program more effective in achieving its regulatory objectives.

DHS is considering changing its general regulatory approach to the CFATS program, including both the enforcement process and the manner in which facilities submit information, claim exemptions, and challenge high-risk designations. In addition, DHS is also accepting comment on additions, deletions, and modifications to the program's list of approximately 300 chemicals of interest. Finally, DHS is soliciting input on the CFATS program's risk-based performance standards (RBPS), its treatment of “non-traditional chemical facilities,” the program’s alignment with other regulatory programs, and its impact on small business, as well as the clarity of its terminology. Characterizing users of hazardous chemicals covered by CFATS as “non-traditional,” DHS indicates that this group includes “agricultural product manufacturers; microchip manufacturers and paint and coatings manufacturers”

In soliciting responses to these questions, DHS has asked that comments be as detailed as possible and include analysis of the potential cost and benefits of the proposals. Comments may be filed using the Federal eRulemaking Portal at; Docket # DHS-2014-0016. The agency is accepting written comments through Oct. 17.

CFATS, which was first authorized under the 2007 DHS Appropriations Act, requires facilities with threshold quantities of particular “chemicals of concern” to complete a “top screen” notifying DHS that they possess such chemicals on site. Once notified, DHS can direct the facility to submit a Security Vulnerability Assessment (SVA) and then might assign the facility to one of four tiers based on the potential security threat on site, which triggers a requirement to submit an SSP to DHS for authorization and approval.

ACA’s members own and operate paint, coatings, resin, and chemical manufacturing facilities that are potentially subject to the CFATS provisions, and under CFATS’ statutory authority, many ACA members have submitted top screens identifying chemicals of interest and have been assigned preliminary or final tiers by the department. As a result, a number of ACA member companies have become subject to the CFATS Risk-Based Performance Standards.

Over the last year, DHS, along with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have conducted several stakeholder “listening sessions,” as a part of an interagency chemical safety working group, formed as part of implementation of President Obama’s Executive Order (EO) 13650, “Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security.” The EO followed the catastrophic explosion at the West, Texas, fertilizer facility in April 2013.

DHS is the last of the three federal agencies to seek public comment on potential changes to the chemical safety and security regulations subject to EO 13650.; OSHA sought feedback on its Process Safety Management (PSM) standard in December 2013, and EPA ( )recently published a similar notice concerning the Risk Management Program (RMP) sought information on its risk management program in July of this year.

DHS stated that it would conduct additional listening sessions on CFATS, though no dates or times have yet been publicized.

The agency’s ANPRM is available at]

Caifornia headed to be first state to ban plastic bags

Eco Watch - The California Senate voted 22-15  to pass a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags. The bill, SB 270, will phase out single-use plastic bags in grocery stores and pharmacies beginning July 2015, and in convenience stores one year later, and create a mandatory minimum ten-cent fee for recycled paper, reusable plastic and compostable bags.

The bill, which passed both houses of the California State Legislature now heads to the Governor's desk. If signed, California will become the first state in the U.S. to ban what advocates call "the most ubiquitous consumer item on the planet."

Government To Regulate Groundwater For 1st Time As California Drought Becomes "Race To The Bottom"

Of course, none of this matters as stocks are at record highs...

zerohedgeThe ongoing disaster that is the drought in the West isleaving wells dry across California - which account for up to 60% of water usage. As WSJ reports, as groundwater levels plunge (100 feet or more lower than norm), wells are being driven further and further into the earth (500 feet in some cases) forcing the state legislature is considering regulating underground water for the first time. "We can't continue to pump groundwater at the rates we are and expect it to continue in the future," warns one engineer, adding "What's scary is we're not fixing anything... It's a race to the bottom."

"Everybody was pumping to their heart's content, until they realized the basin isn't that big."

 As WSJ reports, Groundwater was kind of out of sight, out of mind," said Lester Snow, executive director of the California Water Foundation, a nonprofit policy group in Sacramento, and former director of the state Department of Water Resources. But now...

With groundwater levels falling across the Golden State—causing dried-up wells, sinking roadbeds and crumbling infrastructure—the state legislature is considering regulating underground water for the first time.

Californians have long battled over rights to rivers, lakes and other surface-water supplies, but the drought is finally shifting the focus to groundwater, which accounts for about 40% of water used in normal years—and up to 60% in drought years, as other sources dry up.

Other states were forced to act earlier.

Arizona, for example, began regulating its major groundwater basins in 1980 after experiencing subsidence, or sinking soils from lack of water, and other problems from agriculture pumping, said Michael Lacey, director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources. "Had we done nothing, many of the areas would have no supplies left," Mr. Lacey said.

But in California...

Groundwater remains there for the taking—except in places such as Orange County with special management districts. The Department of Water Resources said earlier this year that groundwater tables in some parts of California have dropped 100 feet or more below historic averages. That has resulted in an estimated $1.3 billion in damage to infrastructure, such as cracked highways due to subsidence, Mr. Snow said.

And so the government is stepping in...

A bill pending in the Legislature wouldrequire that groundwater be managed sustainably at major aquifers throughout the state, such as by authorizing local agencies to impose pumping limits and conduct inspections.

Farmers are worried...

"There is no good time for hurried legislation, but during a critical drought year…is absolutely the wrong time,"Danny Merkley, director of water resources for the California Farm Bureau Federation, wrote in a recent column for a trade publication.

But the problem is vast...


County Supervisor Frank Mecham said the near-doubling of the county's population to 275,000 since 1980 has put pressure on groundwater, particularly in rural areas where more vineyards also have sprung up.


As a result, many rural homeowners have reported dramatic drops in their well water levels. Sue Luft, for instance, said she and her husband last year had to drill a second well to 540 feet after one 355 feet deep went dry.


"What's scary is we're not fixing anything," said Ms. Luft, 57, a retired environmental engineer who leads a homeowners' group that recently teamed with the vintners to support the water district bill. "It's a race to the bottom."