Jul 16, 2009 | 9
Corn-based ethanol production continues to rise; U.S. farmers planted 87 million acres of corn this year—two million more than the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) had initially estimated in March. This news has driven down corn market prices, leaving farmers skeptical about the theory that ethanol production has caused a corn shortage and in turn inflated food prices in the U.S.
The U.S. is the world's largest producer of both corn and ethanol, surpassing Brazil in the latter category in 2006. Since 2002, the year ethanol production began rapidly increasing in the U.S., the rate at which food prices increase has doubled (an increase of $46 per week for a family of four from 2002 to 2009, compared with an increase of $23 per week for the same family over the prior seven-year period). These simultaneous increases in food costs and ethanol production have left many people concerned over a potential shortage of the grain. The current market prices, however, undermines the correlation between ethanol production and a shortage of the grain.
Apr 15, 2009 | 11
Bedbugs have crawled their way onto the national agenda. Federal environmental regulators are hosting the first-ever "bedbug summit" to discuss emerging infestations of the insects around the country.
At the behest of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), some 300 people gathered in Arlington, Va., yesterday and today to swap ideas about how to get rid of the critters, whose bites make up to half of victims itchy with hives. While there's no official count of how many people are bitten, cities including New York, Chicago, Boston and Cincinnati have reported growing bedbug problems, which experts blame in part on declining use of pesticides amid concerns about their health effects.
Apr 9, 2009 | 1
High-tech giants like Google and Microsoft are getting socked with high electric bills to cool ever-expanding data centers (computers don't like heat or humidity). In an attempt to lower costs, some of them are using fresh air to help maintain optimum temps–and now there's a way to gauge how much money and energy they can save by taking this tack. The Green Grid, a Portland, Ore.,–based consortium of 208 businesses (including Google and Microsoft) with megadata centers, today launched a free tool on its Web site designed to help U.S. and Canadian companies figure out how Mother Nature can help them keep their cool—and how much dough and energy they can save by tapping her reserves.
Potential savings depend on a number of factors, including where a data center is located, the local cost per kilowatt hour of power, how much energy a facility uses and the specific temperatures and humidity levels required, according to Mark Monroe, a member of the Green Grid's board of directors and Sun Microsystems's director of sustainable computing.
Apr 6, 2009
They've made appearances in the news and now, environmental fugitives are among the government's most sought after alleged criminals.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has its own "wanted" list, which currently contains the names, vital stats and mug shots of 21 people on the run from justice for allegedly participating in environmental crimes ranging from smuggling pollutants to illegally dumping them.
"We take them seriously, and there are serious consequences," Doug Parker, deputy director of the EPA's criminal investigation division, told The New York Times today. The newspaper wrote a feature about the enviro most-wanted list after the agency added its 21st fugitive, Albania Deleon, 39, to it last week.
Mar 31, 2009
Environmental regulators will measure the air quality outside 62 schools in 22 states, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today, following news reports that questioned whether schools located in "toxic hotspots" near large industrial facilities and in urban areas were safe for kids.
“As a mother, I understand that concerned parents deserve this information as quickly as we can gather and analyze it,” EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in a statement. (Jackson, 47, is the mother of two sons.) “EPA, state, and local officials are mobilizing to determine where elevated levels of toxics pose a threat, so that we can take swift action to protect our children at their schools.”
Mar 30, 2009 | 15
The computer you're reading this on may not seem like a huge energy waster, but the power consumption adds up when joined by the other PCs worldwide (Stamford, Conn., research firm Gartner estimates there are more than one billion). A study released last week puts a finer point on this assertion, reporting that U.S. workers waste $2.8 billion annually in energy costs by failing to shut off their PCs at the end of the work day. What's more, machines left on during off hours may emit up to 20 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) this year alone, roughly the equivalent impact of four million cars.
The 2009 PC Energy Report, (conducted by Harris Interactive and commissioned by London-based energy-management software maker 1E Ltd and the Alliance to Save Energy, a Washington, D.C., coalition of business, government and environmental organizations) says that nearly half of U.S. workers leave their PCs running overnight. Among reasons cited, according to the report: it takes too long to shut them down, people forget to turn them off or they deliberately leave them on so they can receive software updates overnight.
Mar 10, 2009
Three months after a massive coal ash spill at a Tennessee utility buried homes and killed scores of fish in over 300 surrounding acres, the feds say they're crafting new rules to ensure coal ash is safely stored.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sent letters yesterday to 300 electric utilities that have surface impoundments, requesting info on their structural integrity and demanding that damaged units be repaired. “Environmental disasters like the one last December in Kingston should never happen anywhere in this country,” EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in a statement. “That is why we are announcing several actions to help us properly protect the families who live near these facilities and the places where they live, work, play and learn.”
Jan 21, 2009 | 13
Pres. Barack Obama yesterday put all pending regulatory changes made in the waning months of the Bush administration on hold until he has a chance to review them.
Obama spokesperson Bill Burton told The Washington Post he's not sure how many regs are affected by the order. Former Bush official Susan Dudley of the Office of Management and Budget said the administration had issued 100 rules since November. But it’s not clear how many of them have already taken effect.
A spokesperson at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said today that one of the most controversial of the last-minute Bush measures took effect yesterday. That reg, known as the "right to conscience" rule, allows the government to withhold money from federally funded health care facilities that do not make allowances for workers who refuse on moral grounds to help administer certain procedures, such as abortions. Reproductive rights groups last week sued to block the reg from taking effect, charging that it's unlawful.
Dec 18, 2008 | 6
Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that humans carry phthalates—chemicals used as softeners in plastics and found in everything from pill coatings to nail polish—around in their bodies. A growing number of studies, primarily in rats, show that phthalates cause male reproductive problems—infertility, decreased sperm count, malformation—and can cross the placenta. As a result, the European Union has banned some of them and consumer advocate and environmental groups have called for the U.S. government to do the same.
Today, an advisory panel of scientists, commissioned by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), released a report recommending that the chemicals be assessed as a group for potential risks as soon as possible.
Dec 2, 2008
The feds yesterday ordered a major U.S. producer of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) resin, a known cancer-causing agent, to pay $12 million in fines and to clean up its facilities after determining that it violated antipollution laws.
The U.S. Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) charged Shintech, Inc. and its subsidiary K-Bin, Inc., with violating the Clean Air and Water acts as well as the Resources Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), which was passed in 1976 and serves as the Unites States' primary law governing the disposal of solid and hazardous waste.
The companies were ordered to pay a $2.6 million fine and to spend $4.8 million to upgrade their facilities to reduce ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbon emissions and improve hazardous waste management at plants in Freeport, Texas. The companies were also told to fork over another $4.7 million to retrofit its plants to reduce emissions of polyvinyl chloride by 10,000 pounds (4,536 kilograms) a year as well as to help fund other environmental projects. Among them: the addition of at least 300 acres of forest and wetlands to Austin's Woods preserve (also called the Colombia Bottomlands area) managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and a new program in Houston that will pick up and recycle residential appliances containing ozone-depleting refrigerant.
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