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Geothermal Power Gaining Attention

WASHINGTON, Sept. 1 (UPI) — The heat in the upper six miles of Earth’s crust contains many times the energy found in all the world’s oil and gas reserves combined, experts say.

Despite the abundance, researchers say, only 10,700 megawatts of geothermal electricity generating capacity have been harnessed worldwide, Inter Press Service reported.

The oil, gas, and coal industries have been providing cheap fuel by omitting the costs of climate change and air pollution from fuel prices, environmentalists charge, so little investment is being made in geothermal energy, which has been growing at scarcely 3 percent a year, the report said.

About half the world’s existing generating capacity is in the United States and the Philippines, with Indonesia, Mexico, Italy, and Japan accounting for most of the remainder. About two dozen countries convert geothermal energy into electricity.

El Salvador, Iceland, and the Philippines get 26 percent, 25 percent, and 18 percent, respectively, of their electricity from geothermal power plants.

In 2006, a team of scientists and engineers assembled by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology assessed U.S. geothermal electrical generating potential.

Geothermal electricity technology involves drilling down to the hot rock layer, fracturing the rock and pumping water into it, and then extracting the superheated water to drive a steam turbine.

The MIT team said the technology would provide enough geothermal energy to meet U.S. needs 2,000 times over.

About 152 power plants are under development in 13 U.S. states and are expected to nearly triple U.S. geothermal generating capacity, now at about 3,000 megawatts.

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, Geothermal, Other0 Comments

Group Wants Protection for SoCal Squirrel

LOS ANGELES, Aug. 30 (UPI) — Environmentalists say they want the San Bernardino flying squirrel, a nocturnal glider native to Southern California mountains, listed as an endangered species.

A petition filed last week with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service by the Center for Biological Diversity, based in Tucson, is seen as another attempt to combat global warming through the Endangered Species Act, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Environmentalists consider the Endangered Species Act a weapon to force regulation of coal-fired power plants and industrial facilities that spew carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases causing climate change, the newspaper said. The petition comes after the federal government granted protected status to the polar bear in 2008 based on shrinking ice sheets caused by climate change.

Under the Endangered Species Act, activists say, the government is obligated to protect threatened forms of life and, arguably, could accomplish this by putting curbs on greenhouse gases, even from sources outside a species’ local habitat.

In addition to the request for protection of the flying squirrel, the center filed petitions asking protection on climate change grounds for the ‘I’iwi, a Hawaiian songbird; the white-tailed ptarmigan, a grouse-like bird of the Rocky Mountains; and Bicknell’s thrush, a northeastern U.S. songbird.

“Climate change will have disproportionate impacts on species that live at high elevations,” Noah Greenwald, the center’s endangered species program director, said. “These four species are literally going to be pushed off the top of the mountain.”

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.

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China 'e-waste' Recycling Said Hazardous

CORVALLIS, Ore., Aug. 26 (UPI) — Much of the world’s electronic waste ends up in China for recycling, an activity creating significant health and environmental hazards, researchers say.

Scientists from China and Oregon State University have identified toxic elements in the emissions from cottage-industry recycling workshops in southern China that use low-tech methods to separate reusable electronic components from circuit boards, a university release said Thursday.

Their study was conducted in Shantou City, population 150,000, in southern China’s Guangdong province.

They collected samples as workers were removing the electronic components by heating the circuit boards over grills on stoves burning coal briquettes.

In this “roasting process,” researchers found numerous organic chemicals, heavy metals, flame retardants and persistent organic pollutants being emitted into the air via the smoke.

“The most immediate problem is the health of the workers and the people who live in the city,” Bernd R.T. Simoneit, OSU professor and one of the authors of the study, said. “But this may also be contributing to global contamination. For example, previous studies have found carcinogens in wind-carried dust from Asia.

“The next step is to see to what extent this is harming the environment and creating a health hazard for both the workers, and people living in the path of the emissions,” Simoneit said. “Some of these chemical compounds may be carcinogens; others may be just as harmful because they can act as ‘environmental disruptors’ and may affect body processes from reproduction to endocrine function.”

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Posted in Carcinogens, Chemicals, Coal, Electronic Waste, Other, Recycling0 Comments

U.S. Energy 'appetite' Trimmed in 2009

LIVERMORE, Calif., Aug. 24 (UPI) — Americans are using less energy overall and availing themselves of more renewable energy sources, a report says.

Data released by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory showed the United States used significantly less coal and petroleum in 2009 than in 2008 while utilizing considerably more wind power.

And while there was a decline in natural gas consumption, solar, hydro and geothermal power use was up, the laboratory said.

“Energy use tends to follow the level of economic activity, and that level declined last year,” A.J. Simon, an LLNL energy systems analyst, said.

“At the same time, higher efficiency appliances and vehicles reduced energy use even further,” he said. “As a result, people and businesses are using less energy in general.”

Wind power increased dramatically in 2009, and since most of that energy is tied directly to electricity generation it helps decrease the use of coal for electricity production, he said.

“The increase in renewables is a really good story, especially in the wind arena,” Simon said. “It’s a result of very good incentives and technological advancements.”

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, Consumption, Electricity, Geothermal, Natural Gas, Other, Solar, Wind0 Comments

Scientists Propose Nuclear 'renaissance'

LONDON, Aug. 12 (UPI) — British scientists are calling for a nuclear power “renaissance” in a 20-year master plan proposing global expansion of the industry.

Researchers envision nuclear reactors with replaceable parts, portable mini-reactors and even ship-borne reactors supplying countries with clean energy, an article published in the journal Science said Thursday.

“With the right investment, these new technologies could be feasible,” Professor Robin Grimes from the Department of Materials at Imperial College London said.

“Concerns about climate change, energy security and depleting fossil fuel reserves have spurred a revival of interest in nuclear power generation and our research sets out a strategy for growing the industry long-term,” he said.

The proposed road map could fill an energy gap as old nuclear, gas and coal fired plants around the world are decommissioned while reducing the planet’s dependency on fossil fuels, the researchers say.

Based on how technologies are developing, scientists say, new types of reactors could come online by 2030 that are much more efficient than current reactors.

The report concludes with a caution that governments around the world must invest more in training the next generation of nuclear engineers or else the nuclear industry may not have enough qualified personnel to make the renaissance a reality.

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.

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EPA Rejects Challenges to Climate Report

WASHINGTON, July 29 (UPI) — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says it has denied 10 petitions challenging its 2009 determination that climate change is real and threatens humans.

Rejecting a series of critiques lodged by groups seeking to block federal regulation of greenhouse gas emissions, EPA officials declared that “climate science is credible, compelling and growing stronger,” the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday.

Ten groups had petitioned to challenge that determination, which is known as the “endangerment finding,” including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, coal giant Peabody and the states of Texas and Virginia, the Times reported.

The EPA said it found no evidence to support the petitions.

“The endangerment finding is based on years of science from the U.S. and around the world. These petitions — based as they are on selectively edited, out-of-context data and a manufactured controversy — provide no evidence to undermine our determination. Excess greenhouse gases are a threat to our health and welfare,” EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said.

The petitioners said they would appeal. The Chamber said its efforts were based on the economic costs of regulating greenhouse gases and not climate science.

“The Chamber’s petition challenged the wisdom of regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act,” the organization said in a release, “which simply was never intended to regulate something as complex as the problem of climate change.”

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.

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Whales in Gulf to Get Recording 'session'

ITHACA, N.Y., July 29 (UPI) — Electronic “ears” are being placed in the Gulf of Mexico to listen in on whales and investigate their health since the massive oil spill, researchers say.

Scientists from Cornell University, in cooperation with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, have placed 22 “marine autonomous recording units” in the gulf, a university release said Thursday.

The goal is to document the state of the whales in the ecosystem over an extended period of time, the release said.

“Night after night, on TV and on Web cams, we saw oil spewing from the bottom of the ocean,” said Christopher Clark, head of the Cornell team. “You wonder, ‘What can we do? What’s the impact of this?’ In the case of marine mammals, we don’t know because we don’t even know what’s there.”

The recording units have been anchored to the sea floor in an arc stretching from Texas to western Florida along the edge of the continental shelf.

After recording underwater sounds for three months, they will release their tethers and float to the surface for retrieval.

“This will be the first large-scale, long-term, acoustic monitoring survey in the Gulf of Mexico,” Clark said. “The whales are like oversized canaries in the coal mine — they reflect the health of the environment they live in.”

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, Mammals, Other0 Comments

Worker-related Deaths in Britain Down

SOUTHAMPTON, England, July 21 (UPI) — Work-related deaths in Britain were reduced by half in a 20-year period, researchers say.

Professor David Coggon of the Southampton General Hospital in England and colleagues say deaths from most hazards declined, but there was no reduction in excess mortality from exposure to asbestos or from cancer among woodworkers.

The study, published online in Occupational and Environmental Medicine, finds total excess death rates of 733.2 per year during 1979 to 1990 and 471.7 per year during 1991to 2000 and the risk of work-related death in some jobs — such as tavern workers, coal miners and pilots — remain relatively high.

The “riskiest” jobs between 1991 and 2000 were bar owners and bar workers who suffered from cirrhosis and other diseases caused by alcohol and coal miners who developed chronic bronchitis, emphysema or pneumoconiosis.

The overall substantial fall in work-related deaths is likely due to a combination of safer working conditions and lower rates of employment in more hazardous jobs, the study authors suggest.

“However, several hazards remain problematic, and are a priority for further preventive action. These include diseases caused by asbestos, sino-nasal cancer in woodworkers and motor vehicle accidents in truck drivers,” the authors say in a statement.

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.

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'Green' Energy Production Makes Advances

NEW YORK, July 15 (UPI) — The United States and Europe added more power capacity from renewable sources like wind and solar than from conventional sources in 2009, a report says.

This year or next, experts predict, the world as a whole will add more capacity to the electricity supply from renewable sources than from traditional sources such as coal, gas or nuclear plants, a report by the U.N. Environment Program said Thursday.

China surpassed the United States in 2009 as the country with the greatest investment in clean energy, the report said, with China’s wind farm development enjoying the greatest investments.

Countries that encourage renewable energy have roughly doubled, the report noted, from 55 in 2005 to more than 100 today, half of them in the developing world.

In 2009 renewable sources represented 25 percent of global electrical power capacity, generating 1,230 gigawatts of the total of 4,800 gigawatts from all sources including coal, gas, nuclear, the report 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, Nuclear, Other, Solar0 Comments

Australia Turns to Sea for Drinking Water

CANBERRA, Australia, July 12 (UPI) — Australia will spend $13 billion to build desalinization plants to provide up to 30 percent of the country’s drinking water from the sea, authorities say.

Still recovering from the worst drought in its history, blamed in part on climate change, Australia is turning to seawater to deal with looming water shortages, The New York Times reported Saturday.

Other nations, facing possible future shortages, are watching the Australian plan with interest, the Times said.

“We consider ourselves the canary in the coal mine for climate change-induced changes to water supply systems,” said Ross Young, executive director of the Water Services Association of Australia.

The $13.2 billion is “the cost of adapting to climate change,” Young said.

The ambitious plan has plenty of critics.

Homeowners fear it will mean rising water bills, and environmentalists are wary of the plants’ effects on the climate.

“Big waste of money,” said Helen Meyer, 65, a retired midwife in Tugun, where the state of Queensland built a $1 billion desalination plant last year. “It cost a lot of money to build, and it uses a lot of power.”

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, Drinking Water, Drought, History, Other0 Comments

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