Author Archives: Hyatt Monien

E.U. biodiesels could be dirtier than fossil fuels, according to new report

E.U. biodiesels could be dirtier than fossil fuels, according to new report

By on 15 Mar 2016commentsShare

Switching to renewable energy is meant to decrease the level of greenhouse gas emissions — a message that someone should really pass on to the European Union.

A new analysis conducted by the Ecofys Consultancy for the European Commission shows that biodiesel from palm oil can produce three times the emissions of conventional diesel oil and biofuel from soybeans can produce twice as many emissions as diesel. It’s an important finding for the E.U., where countries are pushing for 10 percent of transport fuel to come from renewable sources by 2020.

The land-use impacts of palm oil and soybeans biofuels had a major effect on their calculated footprints. The issue is twofold: Large tracts of carbon sinks, mainly forests and peatland, are clear-cut or drained to make way for giant palm or soy plantations; and new land must also be cleared to grow food that could have been planted on plots now being used for biofuels.

The report was taken down shortly after publication and a source told the Guardian that its original release was delayed due to biofuel-friendly pressure. The industry has publicly pushed back against the study’s findings, with the European Biodiesel Board telling Biofuels News that the research is based on “a model which has still not been disclosed nor validated by peers.” The board called into question the academic validity of the report, arguing that other research conducted in California showed lower values for emissions from indirect land-use changes.

If the findings of the report are accurate, the E.U.’s transport directive could have a big impact on carbon emissions. The inclusion of palm and soybean biodiesel in the E.U.’s transportation goals would add two gigatons of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, according to green think tank Transport and Environment — annually accounting for 2-3 percent of the Europe’s total carbon output. Transport and Environment director Jos Dings told the Guardian that biodiesel is “a big elephant in the room.”

Though soybean and palm oil are considered, even encouraged, as renewable energy sources by the E.U., they are, according to the research, changing the emissions of an entire continent. With that in mind, a different, stricter, version of the word “renewable” might be necessary.



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Alabama wetland still infested with oil, four months after train accident

Alabama wetland still infested with oil, four months after train accident

Public Herald

Cleaning up this oily mess turned out to be hard, so it looks like the railroad pretty much gave up.

The derailment and explosion of a train passing through Alabama wetlands in November helped bring attention to the dangers of hauling oil by rail. But the mess left behind after the explosion has been largely ignored.

The Associated Press recently visited the derailment site near the town of Aliceville and found “dark, smelly crude oil still oozing into the water.” Waters around the oil spill’s epicenter are lined with floating booms to help prevent the spread of surface oil, but environmentalists have detected toxic chemicals from the oil flowing downstream. And questions have been raised about a decision to rebuild damaged tracks without first removing all the oil that surrounded them. Here’s more from the story:

The isolated wetland smelled like a garage when a reporter from The Associated Press visited last week, and the charred skeletons of burned trees rose out of water covered with an iridescent sheen and swirling, weathered oil. A snake and a few minnows were some of the few signs of life.

An environmental group now says it has found ominous traces of oil moving downstream along an unnamed tributary toward a big creek and the Tombigbee River, less than 3 miles away. …

Environmentalist John Wathen, who has conducted tests and monitored the Alabama site for months for Waterkeeper Alliance, said Genesee & Wyoming railroad and regulators did the bare minimum to spruce up an isolated, rural site and left once the tracks were repaired so trains could run again.

“I believe they really thought that because it’s out of sight, out of mind, out in the middle of a swamp, that nobody was going to pay attention,” said Wathen.

Alabama officials told the reporter that they would install wells to monitor groundwater quality, but not until the “emergency” phase of the operation ends.

Oil mars Ala. swamp 4 months after crude train crash; critics raise questions about oil trains, The Associated Press

John Upton is a science fan and green news boffin who tweets, posts articles to Facebook, and blogs about ecology. He welcomes reader questions, tips, and incoherent rants:

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Alabama wetland still infested with oil, four months after train accident

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Judge Rules NSA Surveillance Unconstitutional

Mother Jones

A federal judge ruled today that the NSA’s mass collection of telephone records is unconstitutional. Via Glenn Greenwald, Edward Snowden released this statement:

“I acted on my belief that the N.S.A.’s mass surveillance programs would not withstand a constitutional challenge, and that the American public deserved a chance to see these issues determined by open courts,” Mr. Snowden said. “Today, a secret program authorized by a secret court was, when exposed to the light of day, found to violate Americans’ rights. It is the first of many.”

Well, I hope so. But keep in mind that Snowden didn’t expose this program to the light of day. We’ve known about it in fuzzy terms since late 2005, and in very specific terms since 2006, when Leslie Cauley reported it in USA Today. The agency’s goal, she wrote then, was to create a database of “every call ever made” within the nation’s borders. In the intervening seven years, this revelation has basically produced nothing except a collective yawn.

I’m delighted that Snowden helped this get more attention, and delighted that a judge wants it to stop. But district court judges make lots of rulings that never go anywhere, and this is most likely one of them. Unfortunately, recent history suggests that neither the American public nor Congress—and apparently not the president either—is inclined to seriously rein in the NSA’s phone record surveillance.


Judge Rules NSA Surveillance Unconstitutional

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Three Ancient Rivers, Long Buried by the Sahara, Created a Passage to the Mediterranean

Photo: mtsrs

Around 130,000 to 100,000 years ago the Sahara desert was not the sea of sands it is today. Instead, three large rivers created green corridors that linked sub-Saharan Africa to the Mediterranean and could have provided a safe means of passage for migrating ancient humans, according to a new study.

Authors of a new PLoS One study simulated ancient rainfall and water patterns using a state-of-the-art computer climate model. This allowed them to peer into the palaeohydrology of around 12 million square kilometers of desert. The models revealed three ancient rivers that today are largely buried beneath the dunes. io9 describes the ancient landscape:

Much like the Nile, these rivers would have created narrow stretches of nutrient-rich soil, producing “green corridors” that would have allowed animals and plants to prosper in the otherwise inhospitable desert. What’s more, the simulations suggest the likely presence of “massive lagoons and wetlands” in what is now northeastern Libya, covering an estimated 27,000 square miles.

The study authors suspect these watery highways played a significant role in human migration. They write:

Whilst we cannot state for certain that humans migrated alongside these rivers, the shape of the drainage systems indicate that anyone moving from south to north from a 2000 km wide region in the mountains would be funnelled into three clear routes.

One river system, called the Irharhar, appears to have been a particularly popular travel route. Middle Stone Age artifacts have already turned up along that extinct waterway, and more likely await discovery. “It is likely that further surveys in this area will provide substantial evidence of Middle Stone Age activity, especially in the areas of buried palaeochannels,” the authors say.

More from

Green Sahara May Have Provided Route out of Africa for Early Humans
A Ghostly Scream from the Sahara 


Three Ancient Rivers, Long Buried by the Sahara, Created a Passage to the Mediterranean

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As more urbanites shun cars, some cities shun parking-space requirements

As more urbanites shun cars, some cities shun parking-space requirements


Parking-space requirements have reached their expiration date.

In Washington, D.C., almost four in 10 households don’t own a car, making it one of the most car-free cities in the country (nationally, an average 9 percent of households lack car access). So why are new buildings along the city’s Metro transit lines required to include parking spaces — four for every 1,000 square feet of commercial space?

D.C. city planners, watching the town’s car-ownership rate fall year after year, are finally asking that question themselves. At the end of this month, they plan to propose to the city’s Zoning Commission that parking requirements for buildings near transit stops be eliminated, following the lead of other cities like Denver, Philadelphia, L.A., and Brooklyn that have reduced or eliminated mandatory parking quotas.

In addition to making urban parking scarcer and more expensive, thus encouraging alternative forms of transportation, getting rid of parking requirements can save a lot of money, as Jared Green explained in Grist last year:

To grasp the magnitude of the problem, consider that there are 500 million surface parking lots in the U.S. alone. In some cities, parking lots take up one-third of all land area …

All of those parking lots are not only expensive but represent an opportunity lost. The average parking lot cost is $4,000 per space, with a space in an above-grade structure costing $20,000, and a space in an underground garage $30,000-$40,000. To give us some sense of the opportunity lost, [author Elan Ben-Joseph] says 1,713 square miles (the estimated size of all surface parking lots in the U.S. put together) could instead be used for spaces that generate 1 billion kilowatt-hours of solar power. With just 50 percent of that space covered with trees, this space could handle 2 billion cubic meters of stormwater runoff, generate 822,264 tons of oxygen, and remove 1.2 million tons of carbon dioxide annually.

Mandatory parking spaces are costly not just for city governments and developers but for citizens and businesses, too. By driving up the cost of construction, they increase rents, discourage foot traffic that neighborhood businesses depend on, and make traffic worse. And, as this photo essay from Sightline shows, they make cityscapes uglier.

The Wall Street Journal reports that D.C. has already learned the hard way how out of date its 50-year-old parking requirements are:

In 2008, the District spent $47 million to build a 1,000-space parking garage under the new DC USA multilevel shopping center. The city’s zoning code mandated four parking spots for every 1,000 square feet of commercial space. But the developer, Grid Properties, persuaded city officials to cut the required total by nearly half.

Still, those 1,000 spaces turned out to be more than needed, because many shoppers ride the Metro to the mall. The garage languished more than half empty until the city courted nearby businesses to let employees park there. “That really hurt, to pay for a parking garage that was hardly used,” [Harriet Tregoning, director of the city’s Office of Planning,] said.

Some in D.C. worry that things could get chaotic if developers simply stop building parking spaces (after all, 61 percent of D.C. households do own cars; it’s not Manhattan yet). A Grid Properties principal suggests reducing parking requirements as a more reasonable stepping stone. For one of the most expensive cities in the country, even such a small change could make a difference.

But don’t worry, drivers: Parking is not disappearing even in dense urban areas. In Brooklyn, where residential parking requirements were recently reduced, new parking spots are coming — they’ll just be a lot sleeker and fancier than the old kind. The city has finally given the green light to developers to break ground on Willoughby Square, a long-awaited public park in Brooklyn that will be financed in part with the proceeds from a state-of-the-art underground parking complex. This is not your grandma’s garage, The New York Times explains:

To park at the garage, drivers will pull their cars into one of 12 entry rooms, where plasma screens, mirrors and laser scanners help direct the vehicle into the correct position. The driver then locks the car, takes the keys and heads to a kiosk to answer a few safety questions before swiping a credit card or key fob and leaving.

Light sensors measure the car’s dimensions and cameras photograph the vehicle from several angles. Once that is complete, the car is lowered into a parking vault, where it is moved into a parking bay. The cars are parked side-to-side and bumper-to-bumper, two levels deep. Special machinery allows access to the cars in narrow and limited spaces. Upon returning, the driver simply swipes the same credit card or key fob at the kiosk, and the car is returned to the entry room, which is supposed to take no more than two minutes.

Crazily enough, this behemoth will cost only about half as much to build as a conventional garage, and the director of planning for Automotion, the company building it, points out that it cuts down on the emissions cars create while circling a typical garage looking for a spot.

I guess if we still have to build some parking garages, we might as well build them this way: cheaper, more efficient, hidden underground, and helping to fund a public park. Not to mention making you feel like a badass, futuristic evil genius when you park.

Claire Thompson is an editorial assistant at Grist.

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Department of Homeland Security Report Suggested Arming Border Patrol Drones

Mother Jones

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According to a 2010 Department of Homeland Security report obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) suggested arming its fleet of drones with “non-lethal weapons designed to immobilize TOIs,” or targets of interest, along the nation’s borders. Currently, none of the agency’s 10 domestic drones is weaponized; the recently passed Senate immigration bill, which would require a minimum of four additional drones, stipulates that those be unarmed as well.

The report doesn’t exactly rise to the level of proposing drone strikes against Arab Americans “sitting in a cafeteria in Dearborn, Michigan,” as Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) postulated during his 13-hour drone filibuster in March. But it’s sure to fuel the concerns not only of border residents and immigration reform groups but of privacy watchdogs and anti-government protesters paranoid about domestic surveillance.

Jennifer Lynch, an EFF attorney, told the Atlantic Wire, “This is the first I’ve seen any mention of any plans from a federal agency to weaponize any drones that fly domestically.” However, local law enforcement agencies have been considering arming drones with the same weapons used in riot control—rubber bullets, tear gas, bean bag rounds. The CBP report didn’t specify the weapons it has in mind.

The EFF also obtained flight records for CBP drones. The records reveal that the agency used drones not only on the border, but also to conduct law enforcement operations in conjunction with other federal and state agencies. The purpose of those operations ranged from investigating fishing violations to recording “surveillance imagery” for the FBI.

Here’s the DHS report:

Excerpt from: 

Department of Homeland Security Report Suggested Arming Border Patrol Drones

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9 Ways to Reuse Paper Coffee Cups

Marlene Melo


Two-Faced Kitten Turns Heads (Video)

21 minutes ago

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9 Ways to Reuse Paper Coffee Cups

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Pipeline spills oil waste over more than 100 acres of Alberta

Pipeline spills oil waste over more than 100 acres of Alberta

A major spill of toxic oil waste has wiped out trees and vegetation across a 104-acre swath of Alberta, Canada. The apparent cause of the spill: The rupture of a five-year-old pipeline that was designed to last at least 30 years.

Dene Tha

via Nathan VanderKlippe

Apache’s oil spill in Alberta

The pipeline spilled 2.5 million gallons of a waste mixture of oil and water, which the company responsible, Houston-based Apache Corp., downplayed as “salty water” with “trace amounts of oil.”

Whatever you call it, it’s nasty stuff. “Every plant and tree died” in the area touched by the spill, says the chief of the nearby Dene Tha First Nation, while The Globe and Mail reports that “aerial photos show a broad strip of trees that have turned brown.”

It’s unclear when the pipeline started spilling. Judging by the damaged trees in the area, the Dene Tha say the leak might have been sprung in the winter. But the spill was only revealed publicly this week by the province’s energy regulators following media reports.

Tim Wall, president of Canadian operations for Apache, said it is “kind of puzzling” why the pipeline leaked. “We just need to get this all cleaned up, get it reclaimed, do the remediation – then we’ll figure out what happened.”

More from The Globe and Mail:

[The spill] comes amid heightened sensitivity about pipeline safety, as the industry faces broad public opposition to plans for a series of major new oil export pipelines to the U.S., British Columbia and eastern Canada. …

The leak follows a pair of other major spills in the region, including 800,000 litres of an oil-water mixture from Pace Oil and Gas Ltd., and nearly 3.5 million litres of oil from a pipeline run by Plains Midstream Canada.

After those accidents, the Dene Tha had asked the Energy Resources Conservation Board, Alberta’s energy regulator, to require installation of pressure and volume monitors, as well as emergency shutoff devices, on aging oil and gas infrastructure. The Apache spill has renewed calls for change.

“We don’t believe that the government is doing enough to ensure upgrades and maintenance of the lines,” Mr. Ahnassay said.

If Keystone XL is approved, we can look forward to a lot more tar-sands oil mining in Alberta, and a lot more spills like this one.

John Upton is a science fan and green news boffin who tweets, posts articles to Facebook, and blogs about ecology. He welcomes reader questions, tips, and incoherent rants:

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4 Points To Ask Prior To Acquiring Solar Panels

Putting in solar panels on your roof covering allows you to create free, clean electricity while lessening your bills and assisting the atmosphere. PV solar panels are becoming progressively typical throughout the UK as more people start to comprehend the significant benefits that they deliver. However, prior to you invest, it is an excellent concept to ask a couple of key questions to aid you to determine whether they are right for your home.

Right here are several of the points that you need to be asking prior to you make an investment in solar power.

1. Is Your Roof Suitable?

The first most evident point you have to ask is whether you have an efficient roofing to make the most of solar PV panels. Solar panels produce the most electricity when they are installed on roof coverings that encounter southern. However, your roofing system does not need to face straight southern to generate electricity. You can still install PV panels on your roofing system even if it does not experience mainly southern, yet the outcome is that it will certainly generate much less complimentary electrical power for you.

An additional issue you have to take into consideration is whether your roofing system is solid enough. Solar panels are rather hefty, so if you have an unsteady roof covering that could not hold their weight it will certainly not be protected to install them. If you do not know whether your roof covering is strong enough or not, constantly ask an expert to discover.

2. Do You Require Preparation Consent?

Most buildings in the UK will not need preparing permission to get solar panels put in. Nevertheless, there is an opportunity that you may have to, and this is probably to take place if you reside in a specified building or within a conservation area. The dimension of the PV panels themselves may additionally impact whether you require intending authorization or not, so constantly discover before investing in your panels.

3. Can You Manage Solar Panels?

Solar panels need a huge initial financial investment, and can set you back everything from ? 5,000 upwards for a typical device that creates regarding 4kW. Rates vary, yet this is an excellent standard. If you can not afford to spend for yours outright, however, you may have the ability to make the most of the government’s Eco-friendly Deal, where you will spend for the panels in the years following their installation via the cost savings that you make on your electrical power expenses.

4. What Sort of Building Do You Reside in?

It might be more difficult to install solar PV panels if you stay in a flat, a property with a level roofing or a little terraced house without much roofing area. If you live in such a residential property, always ask an expert in solar panels prior to you get your mechanism so that they could suggest you on whether your property agrees with.


Decide on Solar Power free of charge, Clean Energy

There is absolutely nothing much better compared to generating your own power from the sun by utilizing PV solar panels. Nevertheless, even with all the advantages, they are not always suitable for every home. To find out whether solar panels are right for you, take into consideration asking the points over prior to you make the investment, as these will aid you to make the appropriate decision in your circumstances.

In exactly what is still taken into consideration a surfacing industry, Sustainable Energy Design has been effectively putting in solar panels in homes and businesses since 2006.

During this time, Steve Fairless, the owner of this family members business has expanded and they have come to be the principle supplier of solar PV and solar boiling water devices in the North East of England, developing themselves as tried and credibled renewable energy experts. Get in touch with us on 0191 340 7001 or see our site:how to build solar panels

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