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Chinese Environmental Groups Criticize Apple

A coalition of Chinese environmental groups is criticizing Apple for sub-par safety standards and poor environmental practices.

The survey, conducted by more than 30 environmental NGOs, ranks the U.S. tech giant last in a list of similar multinational technology manufacturers.

Nokia, Sony, Ericsson and LG were also singled out for poor environmental and social practices. On the other hand, the report extolled Hewlett-Packard, Vodafone, Samsung, Toshiba, Sharp, Hitachi, BT and Alcatel-Lucent for improving manufacturing standards.

“Apple has broken its promise on three aspects of supply-chain social responsibilities,” said the report.

“On Apple’s supply chain, some workers were poisoned and disabled, neighborhoods and communities were polluted while there were severe infringement of workers’ rights, interest and dignity,” the report said.

The report comes as the Cupertino, Calif.-based company begins to open stores in China. Last week Apple raked in $2.6 billion – about 10 percent of its total revenue – from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, The Associated Press reports.

The report was posted Thursday on the website of the independent Beijing-based organization the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs.

Posted in Pollution & Toxins0 Comments

EPA Revokes Water Permit for W. Va. Mountaintop Mine

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency revoked a permit for one of the country’s largest mountaintop removal coal mines on Thursday.

Arch Coal’s Spruce No. 1 mine in Logan County was previously granted a Clean Water permit under the Bush administration in 2007, but its construction has been delayed by lawsuits. Environmentalists and local residents say the operation would hurt streams and local communities, while Arch says the mine is necessary for West Virginia’s economy.

The federal government nine months ago moved to rescind the permit for the 2,3000-acre project, which would bury seven miles of streams, devastate wildlife and endanger human health with hazardous pollutants.

“The proposed Spruce No. 1 Mine would use destructive and unsustainable mining practices that jeopardize the health of Appalachian communities and clean water on which they depend,” said Peter S. Silva, the EPA’s assistant administrator for water, according to the New York Times. “Coal and coal mining are part of our nation’s energy future, and E.P.A. has worked with companies to design mining operations that adequately protect our nation’s waters. We have a responsibility under the law to protect water quality and safeguard the people who rely on clean water.”

The decision has already been met with defiance by the St. Louis-based coal company, which plans to challenge the veto in court.

“We remain shocked and dismayed at E.P.A.’s continued onslaught with respect to this validly issued permit,” said spokeswoman Kim Link, according to the Times. “Absent court intervention, E.P.A.’s final determination to veto the Spruce permit blocks an additional $250 million investment and 250 well-paying American jobs.”

“Furthermore, we believe this decision will have a chilling effect on future U.S. investment,” she added, “because every business possessing or requiring a permit under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act will fear similar overreaching by the E.P.A. It’s a risk many businesses cannot afford to take.”

This is only the 13th time the agency has revoked a water permit issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Posted in Coal, Groundwater, Springs & Aquifers, Pollution & Toxins0 Comments

Prius Siblings Unveiled at Detroit Auto Show

Toyota introduced its new family of Prius models Monday at the Detroit auto show, debuting a new wagon, a plug-in, and a compact Prius.

The new Prius hybrid siblings are part of an effort to restore the Japanese automaker’s formerly pristine reputation in the wake of last year’s series of mass recalls.

“We are honored and humbled that Toyota was the number one retail brand in the US last year, regaining the highest consideration among consumers,” said Toyota president Akio Toyoda, according to AFP.

“These achievements during a difficult year were made possible through the outstanding efforts of Toyota associates, dealers, and suppliers, and the support of loyal customers all across America.”

“We intend to continue to earn that customer loyalty with even greater dedication to quality, safety, and customer care.”

The auto manufacturer unveiled the Prius v wagon, an updated version of the original Prius with more cargo space.

The new plug-in vehicle will be able to run 13 miles on electric power before the gasoline engine kicks in.

The compact Prius c will be priced much lower than the original Prius and will be targeted at younger drivers, AFP said.

Posted in Electricity0 Comments

Electric Cars Would Cause Added CO2 Emissions in Certain Countries

Electric cars are commonly hailed as eco-friendly alternatives to harmful gasoline-burning vehicles, but a study by Oxford University’s Reed Doucette and Malcolm McCulloch suggests that the adoption of electric cars may actually accelerate global climate change.

The results of the modeling exercise, which were published in Energy Policy last Fall, indicate that developing countries would emit more, not less, CO2 if electric cars were to eclipse gas-based vehicles.

Researchers assessed the emissions of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and internal combustion engines (ICEs) in various countries. They found that countries with high CO2 intensities – like China and India – failed to see a decrease in heat-trapping gases from the adoption of BEVs.

China and India rely on dirty power supplies, so the generation of energy for BEVs would still be environmentally harmful, and could actually lead to higher CO2 emissions.

“Given the state of their power generation mixes in 2010, the case for widespread adoption of [electric vehicles] in both China and India solely on the basis of potential CO2 emissions reductions is not too compelling, especially when the generally higher capital cost of [electric vehicles] relative to [gasoline]-based vehicles is considered,” Doucette and Malcolm McCulloch concluded.

Posted in Air Pollutants, Electricity, Global Warming & Climate Change0 Comments

Texas Commission OKs Nuclear Waste Dump Policy

A Texas commission has approved a plan that will allow 36 states to dump low-level radioactive waste along the Texas-New Mexico border.

Despite concerns raised by environmentalists regarding the possibility of groundwater pollution, the Texas Low-Level Radioactive Commission voted 5-2 to pass the measure, which will permit a number of additional states to export nuclear waste to an Andrews County dump owned by Waste Control Specialists. The site previously only accepted waste from Texas, Vermont and the federal government.

The commission also guaranteed Vermont preferred space of 20 percent capacity. Vermont has only one nuclear facility, which it plans to phase out in the next 30 or 40 years.

President Barack Obama has extolled nuclear energy as a clean alternative to oil, but opponents object to the radioactive waste associated with the process.

The proposal drew more than 5,000 public comments, The Associated Press reported.

Posted in Nuclear, Pollution & Toxins, Radiation, Toxic Substances, Waste Disposal0 Comments

Light Bulbs: IKEA Pulls Plug on Inefficient Incandescents

IKEA announced Tuesday that it has stopped stocking incandescent light bulbs in U.S. stores, instead offering energy-efficient alternatives.

The Swedish-based home decor and furniture retailer began phasing out the bulbs in August and says it is the first seller to remove the lights from its shelves completely.

The announcement comes ahead of a federal legislation that will phase out the incandescents from 2012 to 2014. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 will mandate light bulbs that are 30% more energy-efficient than traditional incandescent bulbs.

“Eliminating incandescents is just one simple way for IKEA customers to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gases,” U.S. IKEA president Mike Ward said in a statement Tuesday.

The company plans to offer compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) along with LED, halogen and solar-powered lamps.

CFLs consume up to 80 percent less energy and last up to 10 times longer than incandescents, AP reports.

Posted in Electricity, Energy Efficiency, Policies0 Comments

Texas Farmers, Pecan Growers Blame Vegetation Death on Power Plant

Environmentalists, scientists, plant specialists, and farmers say that sulfur dioxide from a Texas coal-fired power plant is causing extensive swaths of vegetation death in the region.

Pecan growers have reported plant devastation near the Fayette Power Project, a 30-year-old facility in Ellinger, Texas. They say the power plant, which is operated by the Lower Colorado River Authority, emits sulfur dioxide that has caused thousands of trees to die and nut production to steadily plummet.

“There was an environmental catastrophe,” local horticulturalist Jim Berry told MSNBC.

“It wasn’t just the pecan groves,” he said. “It was the entire ecosystem that was under duress.”

Sulfur dioxide has been known to kill plants in other parts of the country, AP reports.

The Lower Colorado River Authority claims that there is no scientific evidence to suggest that the plant is responsible for the dying trees, blaming the damage on recent droughts instead.

The Environmental Protection Agency toured some of the farms and is currently reviewing data, AP reports.

Posted in Air Pollutants, Air Pollution, Industrial Pollution, Plants, Algae, & Fungi (Botany)0 Comments

Yellowstone National Park Takes on Long-Term Bison Study

Yellowstone National Park’s American bison are truly a sight to behold. The only population of free-ranging buffalo in the lower 48, they number over 4,000 strong and remain a powerful tourist draw. Bison were famously pushed to near-extinction in the 19th century, and only recently sprang back to healthy numbers.

But the rapidly increasing size of Yellowstone’s bison population has some worried about the long-term stability of the park’s grasslands. Syracuse University biologist Douglas Frank, who has examined the effects of climate change and herbivores on Yellowstone’s grasses for two decades, plans to embark on an extensive study to assess the bison’s impact.

“During the late 1980s, similar concerns were raised about the size of the park’s elk herd and whether the herd was negatively impacting grasslands,” says Frank, according to Syracuse University’s website. “Rather than having a negative impact on the grasslands, we found that increases in elk grazing actually stimulated plant growth.”

Frank, a professor in Syracuse University’s College of Arts and Scientists, plans to spend three years on the project. He will work with the National Park Service to monitor the herds’ grazing habits, using research methods he developed in his 20 years studying the park’s grasslands.

“Fossil records indicate that prior to the industrial revolution, the Earth’s grasslands and large herds of migratory herbivores coexisted for millennia,” Frank says. “These systems were stable, despite having sustained very intense levels of grazing. My work in Yellowstone explores why and how this happens.”

In Frank’s previous work on elk grazing habits, he found that several factors contributed to plant growth. For one, elk feces and urine in grazing areas provided ample fertilizer for plants. The intensive feeding also stimulated plants to grow new shoots and leaves, enhancing the overall health of the grasslands.

“Heavy grazing also increases the amount of nitrogen in the leaf material, which increases the quality of material that falls to the ground,” Frank says. “The high-quality litter is quickly broken down by soil bacteria, which in turn enriches the soil around grazed plants.”

Regardless of the outcome, the study will provide scientists with further insights into Yellowstone’s ecosystem.

“We also intend to use this opportunity to better understand the complex and fascinating ways in which the interactions among plants, herbivores, and soil organisms foster the stability of grassland systems,” Frank says.

Posted in Animals, Ecosystems, Land & Soil, Mammals0 Comments

U.S. Approves 'power Tower' Solar Project

WASHINGTON, Oct. 7 (UPI) — The United States has approved the first large-scale solar energy project on public lands that will use “power tower” technology, government officials said.

The proposed project, to be located in San Bernardino, Calif., could produce up to 370 megawatts of clean energy, enough to power 111,000 to 277,500 American homes when it is completed in 2013, a U.S. Department of the Interior release said Thursday.

“Power tower” technology uses fields of mirrors to focus solar energy on tower receivers near the center of each array. Steam from solar boilers in the towers drive a turbine that generates electricity for the transmission grid.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar approved the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System after an extensive review that significantly altered the proposal in response to public comments in order to minimize environmental impacts.

“I am pleased with the changes we have made to improve this project,” Salazar said. “It is important that we learn from our experience to ensure that environmentally-responsible clean energy is developed wisely and in the right places.”

“Ivanpah is one of several renewable energy projects in the pipeline that will help California and this nation build a clean energy economy,” Salazar said.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Electricity, Other, Solar0 Comments

S. Africa Looks to Solar, Nuclear Power

CAPE TOWN, South Africa, Sept. 29 (UPI) — South Africa, subject to electricity rationing and rolling blackouts, says it will invest in a solar power farm to meet increasing electricity demands.

The solar park will be built in the Northern Cape Province and generate 5,000 megawatts of energy, about 11 percent of the country’s current power production, the BBC reported.

South Africa has been rationing electrical power since 2008.

Presently, most of the country’s electricity is generated by coal-fired power plants.

The country, which also supplies electricity to a few neighbors including Zimbabwe, needs to increase its energy production by 40,000 megawatts during the next decade, the energy department says.

The Northern Cape was the ideal location for the park, Energy Minister Dipuo Peters said, and the project would create 12,300 construction jobs and more than 3,000 maintenance and operations positions.

The country is also considering a nuclear plant, which would be its second such installation, officials said.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Coal, Electricity, Other, Solar0 Comments

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