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South American Insects Fight U.S. Weeds

WASHINGTON, May 24 (UPI) — U.S. scientists say they’re using a South American insect in an effort to control an invasive weed, water hyacinth, that’s common across the United States.

U.S. Department of Agriculture scientists at the department’s Agricultural Research Service said water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) is a free-floating aquatic plant native to South America that has infested freshwater ecosystems across the nation, but which is especially problematic in the southeastern United States.

“The plant is a real menace, affecting water traffic, water quality, infrastructure for pumping and hydroelectric operations, water use and biodiversity,” the ARS said. “Other problems include fish kills due to low oxygen levels and increases in populations of vectors of human and animal diseases.”

ARS entomologists Philip Tipping and Ted Center said the work with researchers in Buenos Aires to find and test Megamelus scutellaris — a small planthopper native to South America whose nymphs and adults feed on the sap of water hyacinth. Scientists said the insect’s population increases rapidly, which will enable it to quickly affect the water hyacinth population.

Following extensive testing, the planthopper was found to be highly host-specific and non-threatening to native or economically important species.

The insects were released last week at the Edgefield Regional Stormwater Treatment Facility near Palatka, Fla.

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 Biodiversity, Fish, Hydroelectric, Infrastructure, Other0 Comments

Students to Design Space Rovers

WASHINGTON, April 20 (UPI) — The U.S. space agency says it has selected 76 students from community colleges in 28 states and Puerto Rico to take part in a space rover development project.

The students will travel to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston May 20-22 to participate in a three-day event, during which they will develop robotic explorers that might rove the surfaces of other worlds.

Students in the National Community College Aerospace Scholars pilot program completed four Web-based assignments during the school year. Those who maintained a 95 average qualified for the trip to the space center to interact with NASA engineers and learn more about careers in science and engineering.

“Program participants will form teams and establish fictitious companies interested in Mars exploration during the event,” NASA said. “Each team will be responsible for developing a prototype rover, designing a line drawing of their rover, and forming a company infrastructure, including budget, communications and presentations.”

The on-site experience includes a tour of Johnson facilities and briefings from NASA employees, including astronauts.

A list of the students and their colleges is available at http://www.nasa.gov/offices/education/programs/descriptions/National_Community_College_Aerospace_Scholars.html.

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 Education, Engineering, Infrastructure, Other0 Comments

Strong Quake, More Aftershocks Rock Chile

SANTIAGO, Chile, March 11 (UPI) — A 7.2-magnitude earthquake and two strong aftershocks rumbled Thursday near Libertador O’Higgins, Chile, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

The quake and aftershocks struck the administrative division just as Chile prepared to inaugurate Sebastian Pinera as president, CNN reported.

The quake’s epicenter was about 83 miles north of Talca, 85 miles south of Valparaiso and 92 miles southwest of Santiago, Chile’s capital, USGS said, and about 22 miles deep.

Aftershocks registering magnitudes of 6 and 6.9 were felt within an hour of the earthquake.

“A destructive Pacific-wide tsunami is not expected,” the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Carmen Fernandez, head of Chile’s emergency management agency, resigned after being criticized for the way the agency reacted to the massive earthquake last month. Fernandez told President Michelle Bachelet of her decision in a letter Wednesday, the Latin American Herald Tribune reported Thursday.

Lack of coordination between the agency and the Chilean navy led to a failure to warn of the risk of tsunami after the magnitude-8.8 earthquake Feb. 27. The emergency agency also was criticized for taking so long to organize and send aid to the quake victims.

Nearly 500 people are confirmed dead, officials said. Another 2 million people were injured or displaced by the earthquake.

Fernandez was not a political appointee, the newspaper said. President-elect Pinera said hours after the earthquake he intended to ask her to work in his administration.

The Chilean Education Ministry reported Wednesday the earthquake caused about $1.6 billion in damage to public schools. Preliminary estimates for repairing or replacing public hospitals, roads, bridges and other transportation infrastructure destroyed or damaged in the earthquake were set at more than $5 billion.

Swiss Reinsurance Co. said the earthquake would cost insurance companies between $4 billion and $7 billion, the Herald Tribune reported.

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 Earthquakes, Education, Infrastructure, Transportation0 Comments

Chile Quake Toll 795, Likely to Rise

SANTIAGO, Chile, March 2 (UPI) — The death toll has reached 795 from Saturday’s 8.8-magnitude earthquake in Chile and the government said Tuesday that number likely will rise.

Officials said they expect to find more victims as search-and-rescue crews dig under the rubble. An estimated 2 million people have lost their homes and more than 90 aftershocks have been recorded, ranging from 4.9 to 6.9 in magnitude.

President Michelle Bachelet said looting and lawlessness seen in the city of Concepcion and other areas affected by the quake won’t be tolerated and violators would be subject to the “full force of the law,” CNN reported.

“We have seen images that are, frankly, intolerable,” Bachelet said during a news conference Tuesday. “We want to make it clear that it won’t be accepted.”

Stores were ransacked in Concepcion as soldiers stood guard nearby and residents set up armed security committees.

“What worries us the most today is to provide security and tranquility to the nation,” Bachelet said. “We ask for understanding and patience because the aid will arrive.”

More than 13,000 soldiers are being deployed to secure order, Bachelet said. Trucks and other vehicles carrying some of the aid were getting backed up at a military checkpoint about 12 miles outside of Concepcion, CNN reported.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Santiago, Chile’s capital, Tuesday as part of her scheduled trip through Latin America. Clinton brought 20 satellite phones and a technician, part of the aid the United States will provide to Chile.

Chile’s ambassador to the United States, Jose Goni, said top priorities for U.S. aid include field hospitals, power generators, water-purification plants, rescue teams, medical crews and equipment, and temporary infrastructure for people in need, CNN 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 Earthquakes, Infrastructure0 Comments

Weather Hampers Madeira Rescue Efforts

FUNCHAL, Portugal, Feb. 23 (UPI) — Rescue teams on the Portuguese island of Madeira Tuesday cleared mud and rock carried down from mountains by deadly torrential rains, officials said.

Help was arriving on the Atlantic island about 600 miles from the Portuguese coast, but more heavy rain hampered rescue efforts in isolated communities in the mountains surrounding Funchal, the island’s capital, the BBC reported.

One operation was focused on an underground parking garage near Funchal’s commercial center, where divers have been searching for missing people feared trapped, officials said. A war ship with troops was en route to help restore infrastructure and communications.

Government officials have been warning that number of dead, now at 25, could rise, the British broadcaster said.

“They’re getting on with the clear-up, but there’s a kind of darkness hanging over the city, it’s so sad,” one woman told the BBC.

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 Air, Atmosphere, & Weather, Infrastructure0 Comments

More Tigers in Captivity Than in the Wild

NEW YORK, Feb. 11 (UPI) — Sunday will mark the Chinese New Year — the Year of the Tiger — but U.S. conservation officials say the world’s tiger population is in crisis.

The World Wildlife Fund says more tigers are now kept in captivity in the United States than are alive in the wild. The conservation organization said as few as 3,200 tigers exist in the wild in Asia where they are threatened by poaching, habitat loss, illegal trafficking and the conversion of forests for infrastructure and plantations.

Three tiger sub-species have become extinct since the 1940s and a fourth one, the South China tiger, hasn’t been seen in the wild in 25 years, the WWF said.

That situation has prompted the organization to start a campaign supporting the goal of doubling wild tiger numbers by the next Year of the Tiger in 2022.

“Tigers are being persecuted across their range — poisoned, trapped, snared, shot and squeezed out of their homes,” said Mike Baltzer, leader of WWF’s Tiger Initiative. “But there is hope for them in this Year of the Tiger. There has never been such a committed, ambitious, high-level commitment from governments to double wild tiger numbers. They have set the bar high and we hope for the sake of tigers and people that they reach it.”

More information is available at http://www.worldwildlife.org/species/finder/tigers/year-of-tiger.html.

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 Conservation, Infrastructure, Mammals1 Comment

$78 Million Carp Control Plan Floated

WASHINGTON, Feb. 8 (UPI) — U.S. officials unveiled a $78 million effort to prevent Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes.

The Detroit Free Press said the plan includes intermittent closures of locks along the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, which connects the Mississippi River to Lake Michigan. The closures could begin by the end of April and keep the locks closed three weeks per month, officials said.

At a Washington meeting Monday, Obama administration officials and Midwestern governors such as Michigan’s Jennifer Granholm and Wisconsin’s Jim Doyle discussed ways to keep the voracious invasive species out of the lakes.

Federal officials plan to create electric barriers and expand crews to search for carp using sonar observation, electro-shock and netting, the Detroit News said, and DNA sampling will be increased.

Asian carp are insatiable feeders that can grow to more than 100 pounds and some fear they could destroy the Great Lakes fishery.

Granholm said intermittent lock closures are not enough, adding, “I think there’s enough (Asian carp) DNA evidence now to shut them down.”

Illinois lawmakers say the ship canal is a vital transportation link and needs to be kept open. A lawsuit brought by the state of Michigan seeking the locks’ closure has so far been unsuccessful.

U.S. House lawmakers were set to debate proposed legislation Tuesday during a meeting of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, while on Wednesday, attorneys general for Great Lakes states were to meet with U.S. Department of Justice officials on the carp issue, the Chicago Tribune reported.

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 Fish, Infrastructure, Justice, Transportation0 Comments

EPA Budget Request $10B Higher Than FY2010

WASHINGTON, Feb. 1 (UPI) — The Environmental Protection Agency would receive $10 billion more during fiscal year 2011 under budget proposals announced Monday by the White House.

Officials said the EPA budget request is a substantially higher annual amount than requested under any previous administration and is intended to strengthen the EPA’s program implementation, research, regulation and comprehensive enforcement activities.

Included in the proposed EPA budget is $3.3 billion to assist states in providing low-interest loans to communities to finance wastewater and drinking water infrastructure and $1.3 billion to help states and tribes protect their air, water and land. That represents a 14 percent increase from fiscal 2010 and is the highest level ever requested.

An additional $300 million would be allocated for restoration efforts in the Great Lakes basin, the largest freshwater system in the world, with a focus on contaminated sediments and toxics, non-point source pollution, habitat degradation and loss, and invasive species.

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 Drinking Water, Infrastructure, Liability, Law, & Government, Policy, Law, & Government, U.S. Federal Government Agencies0 Comments

Report: Green Energy Funds Fall Slightly

DAVOS, Switzerland, Jan. 28 (UPI) — International support for combating climate change has slipped only slightly during the recession, a report presented in Davos, Switzerland, said Thursday.

The unexpected resilience in funding was partly the result of economic stimulus programs that leaned on green energy initiatives and partly the result of the Copenhagen Accord of December 2009 in which the international community pledged $100 billion to help developing countries, a statement issued by the World Economic Forum said.

Funding to combat global warming fell 6 percent from $155 billion in 2008 to $145 billion in 2009, said the report entitled “Green Investing, 2010: Policy Mechanisms to Bridge the Financing Gap.”

A separate report said there was still a huge gap in funding needed to restrict global warming to an average temperature increase of 2 degrees Celsius.

The report, “Green Investing: Toward a Low Carbon Energy Infrastructure” said $500 billion per year would be required to keep climate change below that target.

“The world needs a substantial increase in private investment flows into clean energy and energy efficiency if we want to avoid severe impacts of climate change,” said Jack Ehnes, Chief Executive Officer, CalSTRS and a member of the World Economic Forum’s Expert Committee.

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 Business & Economics, Energy Efficiency, Infrastructure0 Comments

Pasadena California's ESolar Strikes Deal with China for Series of Solar Thermal Power Plants

BEIJING, Jan. 11 (UPI) — Pasadena, California company eSolar Inc. signed an agreement Friday to build a series of solar thermal power plants in China, marking China’s first big venture into large-scale solar thermal power production.

Under the deal, eSolar will provide China Shandong Penglai Electric Power Equipment Manufacturing Co. the technology and expertise to build solar “power tower” plants over the next decade, with a total capacity of 2,000 megawatts.

The initial project, which includes a 92-megawatt solar power plant to be built this year, will be located in the Yulin Energy Park, a booming area for renewable energy in Shaanxi province.

China Shaanxi Yulin Huayang New Energy Co. will own and operate the first projects. Penglai Electric will manage the power plants’ construction.

eSolar’s technology uses fields of mirrors called heliostats to concentrate heat from the sun onto a water tank suspended on a tower. The intense heat vaporizes the water, and the resulting high-pressure steam drives an electricity-generating turbine.

While the power tower concept already exists, eSolar uses a sophisticated software system and imaging technology to control the mirrors.

For its standard 46-megawatt power plant, eSolar uses 176,000 small mirrors. The software positions the mirrors to create a virtual parabola to focus the sun on the receiver tower.

The deal also includes the construction of biomass power plants to generate electricity when the sun sets.

The solar and biomass plants will share turbines and other infrastructure, reducing the projects’ cost and allowing continuous electricity production, according to Bill Gross, eSolar’s chairman, The New York Times reports.

“That supercharges the economics of solar,” Gross told the Times, noting that the addition of biomass generation will allow power plants to operate at 90 percent of capacity.

The sand willow, a local shrub grown in the surrounding region to fight desertification, will supply fuel for the biomass power plants, according to Penglai Electric.

“We chose eSolar because of its demonstration in commercial maturity, sustainability and long-term potential to compete against fossil fuel,” Eric Wang, a Penglai Electric spokesman, told The Los Angeles Times.

Nathaniel Bullard, a solar energy analyst with consulting firm Bloomberg New Energy Finance, told The Los Angeles Times the eSolar deal indicated China was moving aggressively to pinpoint technologies around the world that could help it meet its ambitious renewable energy goals.

“If you’re identified by China as a leading technology developer, the technology will be imported with the implication that your technology will over time become local,” he said. “You effectively have one stakeholder, the government, which makes development much easier.”

Copyright 2010 by United Press International

Posted in Electricity, Infrastructure, Solar0 Comments

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