IN TODAY'S AUDIO REPORT: Fires and bats and bears --- OH MY!; Congress to offer 'Cash For Clunkers'; Some Democrats side with Republicans in stalling climate legislation; PLUS: A new lightbulb that lasts for 25 years?!? .... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (links below): Cotton vs. Corn for American farmers; U.S. exports giant industrial pig farms to Eastern Europe, but not environmental protections; Ethanol gets a boost from Obama; Big Shipping has bigger emissions...See below for more!
Info/links on stuff we talked about on today's episode, plus MORE green news, all follows below...
- As deadline looms, Interior mulls Bush's polar bear rule
The Interior Department has until Saturday to throw out the contested polar bear rule, a move that could open the door to scrutinizing the potential emissions of greenhouse gases of a wide range of projects --- from power plant proposals to new housing developments and interstate highway expansions --- as threats to polar-bear habitat.
- Climate change may not spur wildfires [emphasis added]:
Although rising global temperatures could lead to much drier trees and forests around the world, that may not necessarily translate to an increased risk for wildfires, according to a new study in this month's issue of Ecological Monographs.
[S]cientists found that changes in vegetation trumped past climate changes in determining wildfire frequency... For example, although the researchers discovered a transition from a cool, dry climate to a warm, dry climate some 10,500 years ago in Alaska, wildfires actually declined at that time because of a vegetation change from flammable shrubs to fire-resistant deciduous trees.
- National Fire Information Website: National Interagency Fire Center
- Forest Service closes caves to stop bat fungus
- Fungus is bat version of the black plague
Forget swine. Let's talk about bats.
A new bat fungus called white-nose syndrome is marching across the country, its cause and cure unknown. It doesn't appear to be a threat to humans, but in the last couple of years, it has killed hundreds of thousands of hibernating bats in the Northeast. It has left winter caves carpeted in thick piles of bat bodies. It's headed toward the Midwest.
- Cap And Trade Bill Hitting Snags In The House
It's always been an intractable political issue, but the number of reports indicating that new cap-and-trade legislation is hitting a lot of snags is remarkable for a couple reasons.
Now, House Blue Dogs are trying to torpedo the bill, and Waxman has been put in the position of promising to provide manufacturers and energy producers with billions of dollars worth of free pollution permits under its terms.
- One or the Other, But Not Both?: Dem centrists press Pelosi to shelve climate bill
Democratic centrists are pressing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to set aside a flagging climate change bill to focus on what they think is a more achievable goal: overhauling the nation’s healthcare system.
But those close to Pelosi (D-Calif.) say she is charging forward on cap-and-trade legislation, despite the potential defections of Democrats who represent states with industries that would be adversely affected by the bill.
But the idea of putting healthcare before climate change contravenes the wishes of President Obama, who met Tuesday with Energy and Commerce Democrats and reinforced that he wants the House to tackle cap-and-trade before healthcare.
- Industries Push for Free Pollution Credits
A growing number of industries are lobbying for free pollution permits under legislation capping greenhouse-gas emissions, in a potential threat to the funding for President Barack Obama's proposed middle-class tax cut.
- Most emission permits to be free: U.S. Rep. Doyle
- An Obama Deal On Nuclear Power?
- No, It's Not 1994 All Over Again--Not Yet
[S]ome House Dems are fretting that Obama's climate proposals will suffer the same grim fate that health care reform did during Bill Clinton's first term. DCCC chair Chris Van Hollen, for one, has started warning that the House should "move cautiously" on the big Waxman-Markey energy bill if it's just going to die in the Senate anyway.
- House markup plans uncertain as Dems lack votes
- Undecided reps on House panel hold key to climate bill
- A White House Compromise On Climate? [emphasis added]:
On the other hand, the idea of delaying the onset of cap-and-trade past 2012 seems like a stickier point for people trying to prevent drastic climate change.... Skate past that point, and we run a high risk of triggering carbon-cycle feedbacks beyond our control, which could put the world on course for sky-high sea-level rises and other assorted horrors.
- Climate chaos predicted by CO2 study: World will have exceeded 2050 safe carbon emissions limit by 2020, scientists say
- U.S. House members reach deal on cash for clunkers
If the new car’s mileage rating is at least 4 m.p.g. higher than the old vehicle, the buyer would get a voucher for $3,500 toward the price of the new car worth $3,500. If the new car’s mileage is at least 10 m.p.g. higher than the old vehicle, the voucher would be worth $4,500. There also would be incentives for small trucks, SUVs, large light-duty trucks and pre-2002 work trucks.
- Racing to Build a Better Light Bulb
According to Lemnis Lighting, the new Pharox can match the light output of a 60-watt incandescent, and it can be used smoothly and reliably with dimmer switches — unlike many C.F.L. bulbs. It’s also designed to be heat-resistant, the company notes and, also unlike C.F.L.s, mercury-free....The packaging says the bulb will last 25 years given average use (four hours a day), or more than 36,000 hours.
'GREEN NEWS EXTRA': More green news not covered in today's audio report... See below!
- A U.S. Hog Giant Transforms Eastern Europe
In less than five years, Smithfield enlisted politicians in Poland and Romania, tapped into hefty European Union farm subsidies and fended off local opposition groups to create a conglomerate of feed mills, slaughterhouses and climate-controlled barns housing thousands of hogs.
It moved with such speed that sometimes it failed to secure environmental permits or inform the authorities about pig deaths — lapses that emerged after swine fever swept through three Romanian hog compounds in 2007, two of which were operating without permits. Some 67,000 hogs died or were destroyed, with infected and healthy pigs shot to stanch the spread.
But Robert Wallace, a visiting professor of geography at the University of Minnesota says Smithfield’s global rise is part of a broader “livestock revolution that has created cities of pigs and chickens” in poorer nations with weaker regulations. “The price tag goes up for small farmers.”
The impact on the environment is even more marked. With almost 40 farms in western Romania, Smithfield has built enormous metal manure containers to inject waste into the soil. “We go crazy with the daily smell,” said Aura Danielescu, the principal of a school in Masloc, who closes her windows tight.
- Mississippi Farmers Trade Cotton Plantings for Corn
The rapid slump of cotton in the United States has been influenced by numerous factors, including weather and the plummeting fortunes of the American textile industry. But lately, the most important factor has been the declining profitability of cotton farming, in contrast to the rising profitability of corn and soybean farming.
Expanding federal mandates for ethanol prompted farmers to plant more corn to keep up with its growing role as an energy feedstock. Also, new corn strains have made the crop more practical in Mississippi’s hot climate.
- Barack gives biofuels the big thumbs up
The Obama administration came out big time today for biofuels. The White House is establishing a new Biofuels Interagency Working Group chaired by EPA administrator Lisa Jackson, Energy Secretary Stephen Chu and USDA chief Tom Vilsack and charged with a broad mandate to improve and commercialize advanced biofuels. In addition, the White House has released stimulus money to be administered by the Energy Department for research in advanced biofuels and, in a sop to a desperate industry, is directing Vilsack to “begin restructuring existing investments in renewable fuels as needed to preserve industry employment.”
At the same time, the EPA announced its proposed rule for a new Renewable Fuel Standard. This is where things start to get hazy.
- Health risks of shipping pollution have been 'underestimated': One giant container ship can emit almost the same amount of cancer and asthma-causing chemicals as 50m cars, study finds:
Confidential data from maritime industry insiders based on engine size and the quality of fuel typically used by ships and cars shows that just 15 of the world's biggest ships may now emit as much pollution as all the world's 760m cars. Low-grade ship bunker fuel (or fuel oil) has up to 2,000 times the sulphur content of diesel fuel used in US and European automobiles.
The setting up of a low emission shipping zone follows US academic research which showed that pollution from the world's 90,000 cargo ships leads to 60,000 deaths a year in the US alone and costs up to $330bn per year in health costs from lung and heart diseases. The US Environmental Protection Agency estimates the buffer zone, which could be in place by next year, will save more than 8,000 lives a year with new air quality standards cutting sulphur in fuel by 98%, particulate matter by 85% and nitrogen oxide emissions by 80%.