With Brad Friedman & Desi Doyen...
By Desi Doyen on 12/16/2010, 1:11pm PT  


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IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Make way for the "grolar" bear; Bad week for BP: the Obama Administration finally sues, while BP also gets the Wikileaks treatment ...PLUS: Surprise! Leaked email reveals Fox "News" slants climate science! Who knew?! ... All that and more in today's Green News Report!

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IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Coal industry gets coal ($$$$) in its stocking; Eastern Arctic warming trend alarms scientists; CA solar installer sees growth boom in midst of Great Recession; India's water is running out; Civic water-to-go program eliminates need for plastic water bottles; Protecting UN climate summit's "fragile victory"; FDA finally reveals how many antibiotics factory farms use—and it’s a [boat]load; Pros and cons of wind farms ... PLUS: This could get interesting: new study finds evidence of abrupt climate change in Earth's past over a decade or less ....

STORIES DISCUSSED IN TODAY'S 'GREEN NEWS REPORT'...

  • Make Way For the "Grolar" Bear:
    • Grolar Bears and Narlugas: Rise of the Arctic Hybrids (On Earth Magazine, NRDC):
      Climate change appears to be igniting a sexual revolution among Arctic mammals --- and that’s not good news for some endangered species.

      In 2006 an American hunter shot an animal in the far north of Canada’s Northwest Territories that shared characteristics of a polar bear and a grizzly. Earlier this year, a similar bear was killed less than 200 miles away, and DNA tests confirmed it was a mixture of the two species. The "grolar bear" thus joined a growing list of cross-species couplings --- beluga whales and narwhals, right whales and bowhead whales, various seal mixtures --- all confirmed to varying degrees by scientists in the Arctic over the past two decades.
      ...
      "By melting the seasonal ice cap," Kelly says, "we’re speeding up evolution."

    • Grizzly+Polar=Grolar? Or Is That Pizzly? (Mother Jones):
      [A]s temperatures climb and animals begin to roam, it's interacting (and breeding) with species it would have rarely encountered before. In 2006 a hunter killed an animal that was found to be half grizzly and half polar bear, the first known "grolar bear." Another grizzly-polar hybrid was killed in April: DNA tests showed that not only was it a hybrid, it was a second-generation mix. Its mother was a "grolar" that had mated with a male grizzly bear, scientists said. Some have called it a "pizzly" to denote both its hybrid status and to differentiate it from the half polar-half grizzly "grolar." Bears aren't the only Arctic mammals creating hybrid offspring: biologists have evidence of harp seals mating with hooded seals, and narwhals mating with belugas.
      ...
      In the case of mammals with long life spans, the creation of new species will take quite a while since each generation may last 30 years. And for the polar bear, that is simply time it doesn't have.
    • Mating Mystery: Hybrid Animals Hint at Desperation in Arctic (Wild Singapore)
    • Scientists: It's not [necessarily] too late yet for polar bears (AP):
      A grim future for polar bears is one of the most tangible and poignant outcomes of global warming. Four years ago, federal researchers reported that two-thirds of the world's polar bear habitat could vanish by mid-century. Other experts foresee an irreversible ice-free Arctic in the next few years as more likely.

      The new study, which challenges the idea of a tipping point, says rapid ice loss could still happen, but there's a chance that the threatened bears aren't quite doomed.

    • DOI's Polar Bear Problem: Polar bears just won 200,541 square miles of Alaskan habitat...maybe (Mother Jones)
    • Arctic Death Spiral 2010: Navy’s oceanographer tells Congress, “the volume of ice as of last September has never been lower…in the last several thousand years”: Disinformers get it very wrong and Inaccuweather's Bastardi absurdly asserts sea ice trend is "leveling off and will turn the other way" (Climate Progress)
  • Obama Administration FINALLY Sues BP for Gulf Oil Spill Disaster
    • From coast to court: Justice Dept. sues BP over oil leak (Politico):
      The Justice Department sued BP, Transocean and three other companies involved in the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday, charging that they broke environmental laws.
      ...
      “We intend to prove that these defendants are responsible for government removal costs, economic losses, and environmental damages without limitation,” Holder said in a statement. “Even though the spill has been contained, the Department’s focus on investigating this disaster and preventing future devastation has not wavered. Both our civil and criminal investigations continue, and our work to ensure that the American taxpayers are not forced to bear the costs of restoring the gulf area and its economy is moving forward.”
    • BP, Transocean, Anadarko sued by feds; Halliburton not named (Fuel Fix Blog)
    • Feds’ oil spill suit doesn’t have to name names … but it could (Fuel Fix Blog)
  • Wikilieaks: BP's Secret Azerbaijan Well Blowout, Accused of Cheating On Royalties:
    • WikiLeaks cables: BP suffered blowout on Azerbaijan gas platform: Embassy cables reveal energy firm 'fortunate' to have evacuated workers safely after blast similar to Deepwater Horizon disaster (Guardian UK):
      Striking resemblances between BP's Gulf of Mexico disaster and a little-reported giant gas leak in Azerbaijan experienced by the UK firm 18 months beforehand have emerged from leaked US embassy cables.

      The cables reveal that some of BP's partners in the gas field were upset that the company was so secretive about the incident that it even allegedly withheld information from them.
      ...
      Other cables leaked tonight claim that the president of Azerbaijan accused BP of stealing $10bn of oil from his country and using "mild blackmail" to secure the rights to develop vast gas reserves in the Caspian Sea region.

    • Wikileaks Blows The Whistle on BP (Digby's Hullabaloo):
      I suppose one might ask if the government ever connected the dots on this before now, but that would endanger national security so best we don't go there.
  • Surprise! Fox News Channel Slants Climate Science Coverage:
    • FOXLEAKS: Fox boss ordered staff to cast doubt on climate science (MediaMatters.org):
      In the midst of global climate change talks last December, a top Fox News official sent an email questioning the "veracity of climate change data" and ordering the network's journalists to "refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question."

      The directive, sent by Fox News Washington managing editor Bill Sammon, was issued less than 15 minutes after Fox correspondent Wendell Goler accurately reported on-air that the United Nations' World Meteorological Organization announced that 2000-2009 was "on track to be the warmest [decade] on record."

    • Fox Climate Coverage Irony Alert! (Kate Sheppard. Mother Jones):
      Not that anyone was particularly surprised—you can turn on Fox most days and see that policy in action.

      But while management at Fox is still banking on sowing doubt about climate change, the big-wigs at parent company News Corp. aren't. Earlier this year I reported at length about News Corp.'s effort to go carbon neutral. Rupert Murdoch has argued that dealing with global warming is not only the right thing to do, it's good for the corporation's bottom line. Yeah, all that stuff about how global warming is just Al Gore's pipe dream? The boss man doesn't think that.

    • Al Gore: Fox’s ‘false’ coverage of climate change comes straight from the top (Raw Story)

'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (Stuff we didn't have time for in today's audio report)...

  • How About Some Liquefied Coal in Your Stocking?
    The renewable-energy industry is cheering passage, while a coalition of the big environmental groups have united against it, arguing that the little good it does on energy is outweighed by major incentives for dirty power sources.

    The green groups argue that the energy provisions of the bill "would, as a whole, take us backwards not forward on moving to a clean energy economy." In a letter to representatives, they point to two portions—an extension of the incentive for turning coal into liquid fuel and the credit for corn ethanol. The former would provide a $0.50 tax credit for every gallon of liquid coal sold or used in the US—and liquid coal creates almost twice as much greenhouse gas pollution as regular old gasoline.

    And, though corn-based ethanol is of dubious environmental benefit, the credit would cost more than $31 billion over the next five years.

  • Eastern Arctic warming trend alarms scientists: “We have dramatic changes taking place” (Nunastsiaq Online):
    You might think of scientists as calm and cool.

    But the first three presenters during the opening session of the three-day ArcticNet conference in Ottawa sounded alarmed by the increasingly visible signs of Arctic warming and the limited amount of money that Canada will spend to understand what’s happening.
    ..
    The most “unusual things [are] going on in the winter,” Wohlleben said. Nothing is progressing as it used to, she said, listing a string of peculiar happenings:

    air temperatures 20 C above normal at the beginning of the year in the Baffin Island communities of Clyde River and Qikiqtarjuaq;

    large ice cracks south of Resolute Bay last January, which caused a hunter to float off on an ice floe;

    • and other cracks in land-fast ice spreading throughout the High Arctic islands, endangering research stations, causing problems for polar trekkers and swallowing up a Twin Otter.

  • California Business Owners and Entrepreneurs Urge Air Board to Adopt Strong Emissions Trading Program (CA Green Business Alliance):
    “We encourage ARB to adopt the proposed market system that levels the playing field between dirty and clean energy, provides business owners with new opportunities to grow their businesses, and spurs the transition to a low carbon economy,” the letter states. “Reducing carbon and increasing efficiency improves the bottom line for our state and for our businesses, giving us a competitive advantage and protecting us from volatile fossil fuel spikes and economic price shocks.”
  • KillaCycle: the 500-horsepower cordless drill on wheels (Gizmag):
    [The] KillaCycle drag bike – it currently holds the title of World’s Fastest Electric Motorcycle, and is also the world’s fastest EV of any kind. The bike was on display at the conference, so we asked Eva to give us the nickel tour.
    ...
    The KillaCycle has consistently broken its own speed records since 1999. It most recently set the bar last September at Colorado’s Bandimere Speedway, where it traveled a quarter of a mile in 7.864 seconds, reaching a top speed of 169 mph (272 km/h). At that same event, Eva set the record in the 48 V street-legal category, on the ElectroCat sport bike which she built with her father in Sweden. That vehicle already held a different kind of record, being the first electric motorbike to make it up the road to Colorado’s notorious Pike’s Peak – Eva was the rider on that occasion, too.
  • California solar installer raises $15 million to expand to the East Coast (Reuters):
    During a withering recession, one would think the residential solar business would suffer.
    ..
    Sungevity says that in 2010 its share of the California residential solar market has grown from 0.4 percent to 2.9 percent. The company’s innovation has been to use imaging technology and proprietary software to remotely size and design rooftop arrays, allowing customers to order their solar systems online. That cuts out multiple visits to a home by salespeople and installers.

    But what’s really driving Sungevity’s growth, and that of competitors like SolarCity and SunRun, is a financial innovation....

  • U.S. Called Vulnerable to Rare Earth Shortages
    The United States is too reliant on China for minerals crucial to new clean energy technologies, making the American economy vulnerable to shortages of materials needed for a range of green products — from compact fluorescent light bulbs to electric cars to giant wind turbines.

    So warns a detailed report to be released on Wednesday morning by the United States Energy Department.
    ...
    At least 96 percent of the most crucial types of the so-called rare earth minerals are now produced in China, and Beijing has wielded various export controls to limit the minerals’ supply to other countries while favoring its own manufacturers that use them.

  • India's Water Is Running Out (Earth Institute Blog):
    ndia is running “the largest water-mining project in the world”–and it cannot be sustained much longer, Columbia Water Center researcher Shama Perveen told an audience on Monday. That is mainly because farmers, who depend heavily on irrigation water drawn from underground aquifers, are using far more water than rainfall can replenish.
  • Water to Go: The Tapit Water Network (Earth Institute Blog):
    Many of us are already aware of the negative environmental impacts of bottled water and make a practice of carrying our own refillable water bottles. But what do you do when you’re out and about all day with no access to a tap? Tapit has the solution.

    The Tapit water network is an ever-expanding group of cafes and restaurants across the country willing to provide free tap water to anyone toting a reusable bottle.

  • Scientists See the Southwest as First Major U.S. Climate Change Victim (ClimateWire):
    A 60-year drought that scorched the Southwest during the 12th century may be a harbinger of things to come as greenhouse gases warm the Earth, according to research published yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
    ...
    [T]here are similarities to present-day conditions. The medieval drought occurred during a period from 900 to 1300 A.D. when the Southwest was about 1 degree Celsius warmer than average. Temperatures in the Southwest have been more than 1 degree Celsius warmer than average since 1990, and climate models suggest greater warming by the end of the century.

    It's not a perfect comparison, said the study's lead author, University of Arizona paleoclimatologist Connie Woodhouse. Temperatures are warmer now than they were in the 12th century, when it was drier than it is today. But Woodhouse says the medieval scorcher represents a "conservative" worst-case scenario for future Southwest droughts, and the region's water managers should take heed.

  • Hydrogen bus launched on London tourist route (Guardian UK):
    UK's first permanent hydrogen bus described as 'stepping stone' to rolling out the clean technology across the country

    ...The buses contain batteries that can store electricity generated by the hydrogen fuel cell – a device that combines hydrogen and oxygen to produce power and water as a by-product – in addition to energy generated during the braking process. As a result, they can travel much farther than the ones trialled in London as part of the EU-sponsored Cute – Cleaner Urban Transport for Europe – project in 2003. The new buses were designed by the consortium of businesses that furnished Vancouver with a fleet of 39 buses in 2009. "The main difference is that those buses were designed to withstand temperatures below -20C," said David Hart, a hydrogen fuel expert based at Imperial College who was involved in Cute.

    More than 4,300 deaths are caused in London by poor air quality every year, costing around £2bn a year.

  • FDA finally reveals how many antibiotics factory farms use—and it’s a shitload (Grist):
    Animals in factory farms get daily doses of antibiotics, both to keep them alive in their stressful, unsanitary conditions and to make them grow faster. What's the annual volume of antibiotic use on factory farms? The question is a critical one, because the practice has given rise to a novel strain of antibiotic-resistant staph (MRSA), known as ST398, that's widely present in our vast hog and chicken factories.

    Well, federal regulators have for years ignored the question and refused to release estimates of just how much antibiotics the livestock industry burns through. But that ended yesterday, when the FDA released its first-ever report on the topic. The answer: 29 million pounds in 2009. According to ace public-health reporter Maryn McKenna, that's a shitload. (I'm paraphrasing her.)

  • Op-Ed: Cool wind or hot air? The pros and cons of wind energy farms (Helena Independent Record):
    Questioning large scale wind and transmission development often results in charges of being against both wind and jobs. This is unfortunate because it’s often not true, discourages public involvement and inhibits the questioning of positions held by important public figures. And questions need to be asked.

    Recent public statements have convinced me that Montana’s leaders should start taking a more realistic view of our state’s wind energy future and stop raising expectations to unrealistic, even unobtainable levels.

  • Abrupt Climate Change: Should We Be Worried? (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute) [emphasis added]:
    Most of the studies and debates on potential climate change, along with its ecological and economic impacts, have focused on the ongoing buildup of industrial greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and a gradual increase in global temperatures. This line of thinking, however, fails to consider another potentially disruptive climate scenario. It ignores recent and rapidly advancing evidence that Earth’s climate repeatedly has shifted abruptly and dramatically in the past, and is capable of doing so in the future.

    Fossil evidence clearly demonstrates that Earth's climate can shift gears within a decade, establishing new and different patterns that can persist for decades to centuries.
    ...
    It is important to clarify that we are not contemplating a situation of either abrupt cooling or global warming. Rather, abrupt regional cooling and gradual global warming can unfold simultaneously.