Saturday, September 30, 2006

US to Cut Funds for Two Renewable Energy Sources

US to Cut Funds for Two Renewable Energy Sources

15 September 2006: Out at the Wanapum Dam on the Columbia River, a
new turbine is being tested that generates more electricity, but
won't kill so many fish - thanks to research dollars from Uncle Sam.
Down in California's Long Valley, on the Sierra Nevada range,
federal researchers are working to boost efficiency of geothermal
energy, which uses the earth's natural heat to generate power.

The US Department of Energy (DOE) is quitting the hydropower and
geothermal power research business - if Congress will let it. The
regime in its FY 2007 budget request eliminates hydropower and

Indeed, the costs of lost opportunities from dropping such research
could be enormous in the long run, recent federal studies suggest.
Yet geothermal holds vast potential - at least 30,000 megawatts of
identified resources developable by 2050 and more unidentified
resources, much of it in Western states, the National Renewable
Energy Laboratory reported in May.

Meanwhile, the more than 5,400 potential "small hydro" power
projects could produce about 20,000 megawatts of power, a DOE study
in January found. And most would require no new dams at all,
shunting a portion of a small river's flow to one side to make
electricity. Others would add turbines to dams that don't have them

Together, high-tech hydropower and geothermal resources could
contribute at least enough power to replace more than 100 medium-
size coal-fired power plants with emissions-free electricity - about
the number now on the drawing board.

Burning Wetlands Unleash Mercury in Wake of Climate Change
Released into the atmosphere most prodigiously with the launching of the
industrial age, the toxic element mercury falls back onto Earth, and accumulates
particularly in North American wetlands. A new study finds wildfires, growing
more frequent and intense, are unleashing this sequestered mercury at levels up
to 15 times greater than originally calculated.



DAVID A. FAHRENTHOLD, WASHINGTON POST - Abnormally developed fish,
possessing both male and female characteristics, have been discovered in
the Potomac River in the District and in tributaries across the region,
federal scientists say -- raising alarms that the river is tainted by
pollution that drives hormone systems haywire.

The fish, smallmouth and largemouth bass, are naturally males but for
some reason are developing immature eggs inside their sex organs. Their
discovery at such widely spread sites, including one just upstream from
the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, seems to show that the Potomac's problem with
"intersex" fish extends far beyond the West Virginia stream where they
were first found in 2003.

Bill McKibben | Finally, Fired Up Over Global Warming
Bill McKibben thinks it is time to take global warming activism to the streets.
He will be joining a group of Vermonters in a Labor Day protest march across the
state. He says, "We hope our example will spread elsewhere, as more of the
quietly freaked-out turn into the noisily committed."

Mother Nature Ups the Ante
Global warming is changing the insurance industry. Says Allstate CEO Edward
Liddy: "We are in a period of increased land and sea surface temperatures. When
you couple that with more people living along coasts and dramatically increased
home values in those areas, that's when you step back and you say, 'Wait a
minute. This is not yesterday's game.'"

Feinstein Unveils Democrats' Plan to Cut Greenhouse Gas
In a speech to the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco Thursday night, Senator
Dianne Feinstein offered a new Democratic outline of a plan to attack global
warming in the next session of Congress - and put political opponents on the
defensive headed into the fall campaign season.


WEB JAPAN - Japanese researchers have developed a biomass fermentation
system that uses seaweed dredged from the shore to produce fuel for
generating electricity. Seaweed is one of the few untapped sources of
biomass energy that is easily obtainable in Japan, and the plan calls
for the research stage to be wrapped up no later than March 2007, with
full-fledged electricity generation to begin later in the year. The goal
is to create the first power plant in the world to run off of seaweed.

Seaweed as Biomass Fresh seaweed is commonly eaten in Japanese dishes
like sushi and miso soup, but the seaweed that washes up on the shore
can rot and begin to smell, and it is unsightly as well. Collection and
disposal of it is a major burden for local governments along the coast.
At the same time, seaweed absorbs carbon dioxide as it grows, so using
it as biomass could be an effective means of combating global warming as
well as conserving oil resources. . .

A test facility constructed in Yokohama first crushes large amounts of
seaweed into a sludge-like state. After using microorganisms to break
down this semi-liquid material, the methane gas that results from this
process is used as fuel for a gas engine that produces electricity. In
the tests to date, one ton of seaweed has been processed per day,
allowing the collection of 20 kiloliters of methane gas. In order to
boost efficiency, this is blended with natural gas and converted into 10
kilowatts of electricity per hour. At present production levels, this is
enough energy to power 20 households, and this energy is currently used
to power lighting in offices at the plant, among other things.



STEVE CONNOR, INDEPENDENT, UK - The rapid rise in greenhouse gases over
the past century is unprecedented in at least 800,000 years, according
to a study of the oldest Antarctic ice core which highlights the reality
of climate change. Air bubbles trapped in ice for hundreds of thousands
of years have revealed that humans are changing the composition of the
atmosphere in a manner that has no known natural parallel.

Scientists at the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge have found there
have been eight cycles of atmospheric change in the past 800,000 years
when carbon dioxide and methane have risen to peak levels. Each time,
the world also experienced the relatively high temperatures associated
with warm, inter-glacial periods, which were almost certainly linked
with levels of carbon dioxide and possibly methane in the atmosphere.

However, existing levels of carbon dioxide and methane are far higher
than anything seen during these earlier warm periods, said Eric Wolff of
the BAS.



SETH BORENSTEIN, ASSOCIATED PRESS - Methane -- a greenhouse gas 23 times
more powerful than carbon dioxide -- is being released from the
permafrost at a rate five times faster than thought, according to a
study being published today in the journal Nature. The findings are
based on new, more accurate measuring techniques. "The effects can be
huge," said the lead author, Katey Walter of the University of Alaska at
Fairbanks . . . Scientists worry about a vicious global-warming cycle
that was not part of their already gloomy climate forecast: Warming
already underway thaws permafrost, soil that has been continuously
frozen for thousands of years. Thawed permafrost releases methane and
carbon dioxide. Those gases reach the atmosphere and help trap heat on
earth in the greenhouse effect. The trapped heat thaws more permafrost
and so on.

"The higher the temperature gets, the more permafrost we melt, the more
tendency it is to become a more vicious cycle," said Chris Field,
director of global ecology at the Carnegie Institution of Washington .
"That's the thing that is scary about this whole thing. There are lots
of mechanisms that tend to be self-perpetuating and relatively few that
tend to shut it off." Some scientists say this vicious cycle is already
underway, but others disagree.


Wind Power Is Energy for Optimists
By Komanoff Charles, Orion Magazine
Is fossil fuels for pessimists? Acceptance of wind farms could be our generation's way of avowing our love for the next.



SETH BORENSTEIN, AP - Arctic sea ice in winter is melting far faster
than before, two new NASA studies reported Wednesday, a new and alarming
trend that researchers say threatens the ocean's delicate ecosystem.
Scientists point to the sudden and rapid melting as a sure sign of
man-made global warming. "It has never occurred before in the past,"
said NASA senior research scientist Josefino Comiso in a phone
interview. "It is alarming... This winter ice provides the kind of
evidence that it is indeed associated with the greenhouse effect.". .
The loss of winter ice is bad news for the ocean because this type of
ice, when it melts in summer, provides a crucial breeding ground for
plankton. . . Plankton are the bottom rung of the ocean's food chain. .
. Summer sea ice also has dramatically melted and shrunk over the years,
setting a record low last year. . . The loss of summer sea ice is
pushing polar bears more onto land in northern Canada and Alaska, making
it seem like there are more polar bears when there are not, said NASA
scientist Claire Parkinson, who studies the bears.The polar bear
population in the Hudson Bay area has dropped from 1,200 in 1989 to 950
in 2004 and the bears that are around are 22 percent smaller than they
used to be, she said.*



UTNE - A 10-unit condo in the Bankers Hill neighborhood of San Diego
[will get] up to 70 percent of its energy from solar panels. In
addition, the project will use chemical-free building materials, wood
discarded by lumber companies, and a landscape of fruit trees and herbs.
Developer Craig Brod [said] that environmentally sound condos are worth
the 3 percent to 5 percent extra in building costs, adding that, "[t]he
majority of builders in America are creating a travesty. They're
charging people a lot of money for a product that is basically inferior
to what it could be."

Though a green condo may be more expensive than its conventional
counterpart, buyers can walk away with a satisfaction that's more
tangible than the warm and fuzzy feeling of shrinking their
eco-footprint. This' Saunders points out that since much of the work
goes toward making buildings more energy and water efficient, the
savings from reduced bills will add an extra layer or two to owners'
wallets in the future.

Some developers are going a step further, combining green living with
green transportation. Saunders writes that designers often incorporate
ways to minimize gas usage, like constructing condos a walkable distance
from amenities and cultural centers or including a membership to a co-op
car in the condo package. In Dallas the purchase of a "Buzz" condo comes
complete with an electric moped. Residents can recharge in the garage
using wind-powered electricity, writes Christine Perez of the Dallas
Business Journal.


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