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Israel Concerned About Egyptian Regime Change

Israel warily watched Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s resignation unfold Friday, concerned about the countries’ peace treaty.

The 30-year autocrat’s decision to step down from power, which comes after 18 days of widespread protests in Cairo and other major Egyptian cities, was announced by Vice President Omar Suleiman in a televised broadcast Friday night.

While Israel’s government has declined official comment on the new development, Israeli officials are worried that the ouster of their Arab ally could mean trouble.

“We have a tough period ahead of us,” Zvi Mazel, a former Israeli ambassador in Egypt, told Israel TV, according to AP. “Iran and Turkey will consolidate positions against us. Forget about the former Egypt. Now it’s a completely new reality, and it won’t be easy.”

After Turkey abandoned its alliance last year, Jordan is the only remaining Arab country that still has a peace deal with Israel, AP reports.

Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, an Israeli Labor Party Knesset member and former defense minister, voiced concern over Mubarak’s resignation.

“From this day on, I only have lots of questions about what will be, what will be the fate of the peace treaty between us and the Egyptians?” Ben-Eliezer told Israel TV’s Channel 10, as quoted by AP. “There are many questions that we don’t have answers for, how will this affect the entire region now?”

The peace treaty between Israel and Egypt has been in effect since 1979.

Posted in International Relations & Treaties, Military, Politics & Politicians0 Comments

Biofuel Maker Gevo Makes Strong IPO Debut

Biofuel and renewable chemicals maker Gevo is officially a public company, as shares priced at $15 began trading on the Nasdaq this morning.

The Englewood, Colo.-based company said it expected to raise $95.7 million after offering expenses. The stock climbed $2, or 13.3 percent, to $17 in afternoon trading, AP reports.

The company primarily uses existing facilities, retrofitting old corn ethanol plants so that they’re capable of converting cellolosic feedstocks like agriculture wastes into isobutanol, a fuel additive necessary for the production of plastic and other products, Reuters reports.

Gevo is retrofitting its first commercial plant, a facility in Luverne, Minn., which is expected to yield about 18 million gallons of isobutanol annually.

Gevo said it plans to sell bio-based substitutes for products traditionally made from petroleum, including solvents, refiners, fuel, plastics, fibers, and rubber.

As of the end of 2010, Gevo was backed by Khosla Ventures, Virgin Green Fund, Ventures International, Total Energy Ventures International, Burrill, and Malaysian Capital.

The company said it will use the IPO proceeds to acquire additional ethanol facilities to be retrofitted.

Posted in Biofuels & Biomass0 Comments

Indonesia Palm Oil Company Promises to Preserve Forests

Indonesia’s biggest palm oil manufacturer on Wednesday promised to meet new standards aimed at preserving ecologically important peatswamp forests.

The announcement was cautiously applauded by environmental groups like Greenpeace.

Palm oil producer Golden Agri-Resources (GAR) and its subsidiary SMART, part of the Sinar Mas Group, pledged to partner with The Forest Trust (TFT)  to develop new environmentally responsible practices.

SMART president director Daud Dharsono told the press that the companies would not develop plantations on High Carbon Stock and High Conservation Value forests and peatlands, which are prized by scientists for their biodiversity and their role in keeping the climate stable.

Scientists believe the deforestation of the carbon-rich forests plays a major part in global warming. Indonesia is the third biggest emitter of heat-trapping greenhouse gases due mainly to its ongoing destruction of the peatlands to make way for palm oil plantations.

Malaysia and Indonesia contribute about 85 percent of global production of palm oil, a cheap alternative to vegetable oil used in cooking oil, cosmetic products, soap, bread, margarine, and chocolate.

“Without better stewardship, the phenomenal growth of the palm oil industry could spell disaster for local communities, biodiversity and climate change as palm plantations encroach further and further into forested areas,” said  TFT executive director Scott Poynton, as reported by AFP.

“We all know that this agreement counts for nothing if it’s not now implemented,” he added.

“We have worked with other companies to clean up their supply chains successfully, and it is our intention to do so again,” he said.

Greenpeace warily welcomed the move, saying it would put its campaign against GAR on hold to see if the company follows through with its promises, AFP reports.

Posted in Conservation, Trees & Forestry0 Comments

Barge Collision Causes Oil Spill in Mississippi River

The Coast Guard worked to clean up 2,100 gallons of an oil byproduct from the Mississippi River after a tow boat and a barge collided Sunday morning.

Louisiana officials said Monday that most of the oil had been contained.

The accident occurred at 5 a.m. under the Port Allen side of the Mississippi River Bridge. The towing vessel crashed into the barge as it was loading “vacuum gas oil,” a byproduct generated during the crude oil refining process. The spilled oil does not pose any health risks, the Coast Guard said.

State Department of Environmental Quality spokesman Rodney Mallett said that most of the oil remained on the barge. Workers removed 385 gallons of the liquid and found no traces left as of Monday morning.

“All potentially impacted water intakes have been notified, and no report of contamination has been reported,” the Coast Guard stated in a news release. “At this point in time, the [vacuum gas oil] is gathering at a natural collection point located at Mile Marker 223 (just North of Dow Chemical) in the form of tar balls ranging in size from golf balls to baseballs.”

The Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit in Baton Rouge is investigating the collision, WAFB reports.

Posted in Rivers, Lakes & Wetlands0 Comments

Crews Put Out Fire from Huge Train Tanker Explosion

Firefighters on Monday extinguished a massive blaze from an ethanol-laden train that derailed in Hancock County, Ohio.

In a spectacular nighttime explosion that could be seen as far as 15 miles away, about 18 tanker cars carrying 320,000 gallons of ethanol tumbled off the tracks Sunday, UPI reports.

Several of the cars burned for almost 24 hours before firefighters got the blaze under control by late Sunday.

The 62-car Norfolk Southern train was heading for North Carolina from Chicago. It is not clear why the derailment occurred.

No injuries were reported, but authorities evacuated homes within a 2 mile radius of the flames. They were concerned about the fire’s proximity to the Blanchard Valley Co-Op, where fertilizer was stored.

Posted in Environmental Disasters0 Comments

Drought in Amazon Gave Off More CO2 than U.S. in a Year

An extensive drought in the Amazon rain forest last year spurred massive carbon dioxide emissions, British and Brazilian scientists said Thursday. They fear the devastating event may become a common occurrence, turning the world’s largest rain forest from an absorber of heat-trapping gases into a source of the harmful emissions.

Simon Lewis, an ecologist at the University of Leeds, and his team of researchers said in a study published Thursday that 2010′s crippling dry spell was worse than a “once-in-a-century” 2005 drought and may have caused more emissions than the United States does in a year.

Forests abundant in vegetation help diminish carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by soaking it up as they grow, but they release the heat-trapping gas when they die and biodegrade.

The 2010 drought was severe enough to leave major Amazonian rivers dry, stranding thousands who depend on boat transport. It followed the region’s dry spell in 2005, a drought so severe that scientists had dubbed it a “once-in-a-century” event at the time.

But last year’s drought was even more intense than the one five years before, scientists discovered. It caused rainfall shortages that affected a 1.16 million square-mile expanse of the Amazon, compared with the 734,000 square miles exposed to drought in 2005.

The 2010 dry spell also caused higher tree mortality and had three major epicenters, as opposed to the 2005 drought, which was mainly concentrated in one area in the southwestern Amazon.

The Amazon typically soaks up around 1.5 billion metric tons of carbon per year. According to the study, the forest will release 5 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases in 2010 and 2011 for a total impact of about 8 billion metric tons. That’s below the United States’ carbon dioxide emissions in 2009, which were approximately 5.4 billion metric tons.

“If events like this happen more often, the Amazon rain forest would reach a point where it shifts from being a valuable carbon sink slowing climate change to a major source of greenhouse gases that could speed it up,” Lewis said.

The study was published in Thursday’s edition of the journal Science.

Posted in Drought & Shortages, Global Warming, Natural Disasters0 Comments

Tahrir Square Sees More Protests

Tahrir Square swarmed with pro-democracy demonstrators today as protesters turned out in droves yet again to denounce the regime of 30-year President Hosni Mubarak.

Thousands of Egyptian anti-government demonstrators flocked to Cairo’s central square, numbering as many as 100,000 strong, including families with children, The Associated Press reported Friday. That’s the largest turnout since Tuesday, when a quarter-million protesters took to the streets.

Source: UPI

The entrances to the square were blocked by soldiers, who checked IDs and performed body searches. Protesters forming a human chain then performed secondary searches for people entering the square.

Mubarak supporters rallied nearby in another square, AP reports. They attempted to move toward Tahrir but were driven back by protesters throwing rocks.

In an interview with ABC News Wednesday, the 82-year-old Mubarak said that he would like to step down immediately, but that doing so would cause chaos in the country.

Posted in International Relations & Treaties0 Comments

WWF Criticizes Croatia River Projects

The World Wildlife Federation is urging Croatia to reconsider its new river regulation projects, which according to the environmental group pose a serious threat to endangered species and oppose European Union laws.
WWF Austria expert Arno Mohl warned in a statement Thursday that the Central European country’s planned projects for the Danube, Drava, Mura, Sava and Neretva rivers could negatively impact the continent’s largest wetland areas and floodplain forests.

“We are very much concerned that new planned river regulation projects along all major rivers in Croatia are threatening unique natural areas and counteracting efforts of the EU to bring water management in line with EU policy and law,” said Mohl.

The extensive regulation programs, which were proposed by the Croatian water management authority, consist of sediment extraction and irrigation projects, AFP reports.

WWF said the plans to destroy some 273 miles of the Danube and Sava rivers are at odds with the EU Water Framework Directive.

Although Croatia is not currently a part of the EU, the country is a candidate for 2012 membership.

Posted in Rivers, Lakes & Wetlands0 Comments

Cyclone Yasi Hits Queensland Coast

Cyclone Yasi struck the coast of Australia’s northeastern state of Queensland in total darkness Wednesday night, as the flood-ravaged region braced for yet another environmental catastrophe.

The huge storm appeared to make landfall in Mission Beach, Queensland, but there are no gauges in the area to take precise measurements. The storm was downgraded from a Category 5 to 4 earlier in the day, but its true force may never be known, UPI reported.

Another area of coastline from Cairns to Townsville was also affected, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. said.

The Australian weather service reported wind gusts as high as 110 to 180 mph around Innisfail.

The government ordered evacuations and airlifted hospital patients out of harm’s way on Tuesday. By Wednesday, Queensland Premier Anna Bligh advised residents who had not evacuated to remain in the area.

“No one should be leaving home now. The time for movement and evacuation has now passed,” Bligh said Wednesday morning, as quoted by UPI.

Yasi comes after driving rains flooded an area the size of France and Germany combined in and around Brisbane, the nation’s third-largest city.

Posted in Natural Disasters0 Comments

Hosni Mubarak Supporters Gather in Cairo

Supporters of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak gathered today in Cairo to counter the past week’s anti-government protests.

On an upscale boulevard in the nation’s capital, thousands of Mubarak defenders – including government workers, men in designer sunglasses and women with expensive hairdos – congregated to peacefully voice their support of the autocratic leader, AP reported Wednesday. A few dozen government-employed nurses chanted, “We love you Mubarak!”

Things were less subdued in Cairo’s central Tahrir Square, where opposition protesters had been keeping a vigil for days. The two sides clashed violently there today, AP reported, hitting each other with sticks and leaving many injured.

After 30 years in power, Mubarak has buckled to pressure from the protests and promised to stand down at the country’s next election in September. But demonstrators continue to demand that the 82-year-old relinquish his authority immediately.
The Egyptian military also called for Mubarak to step down immediately.

“Your message has arrived, your demands became known … you are capable of bringing normal life to Egypt,” a military spokesman said, according to AP.

Posted in International Relations & Treaties, Laws & Regulations, Military0 Comments

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