U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions Rose in 2005

U.S. greenhouse gas emissions rose from 2004 to 2005, increasing by 0.8 percent, according to the annual national greenhouse gas inventory issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA.

Primary contributors to this increase, the EPA said, were strong economic growth in 2005, leading to increased demand for electricity and an increase in the demand for electricity due to warmer summer conditions. These factors were moderated by decreasing demand for fuels due to warmer winter conditions and higher fuel prices.

The report indicates that overall emissions have grown by 16 percent from 1990 to 2005, while the U.S. economy has grown by 55 percent over the same period.

While the rest of the world measures the emission of greenhouse gases by the metric ton, the Bush administration measures them as "greenhouse gas intensity" by comparing the amount of emissions to the level of economic growth over the same period of time. By this standard, says EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson, the Bush administration is doing the right things for the climate.

While some Bush administration critics blame the president’s refusal to ratify the Kyoto Protocol for the continuing rise in greenhouse gas emissions, others blame population growth. Were it not for population growth, the United States would be producing lower levels of greenhouse gas than it did in 1990, said Diana Hull, president of Californians for Population Stabilization.

"Since the first Earth Day in 1970, world population has increased from 3.7 billion to 6.6 billion, and the U.S. population has increased from 203 million to 301 million," Hull pointed out. "Per capita emissions have decreased, but population growth has erased all the gains and then some," she said.

The report, "Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2005" is online at www.epa.gov/climatechange/emissions/usinventoryreport.html

Regional Pollution Could Overwhelm Beijing’s Clean Air Efforts

BEIJING, China – Ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, the Beijing Municipality says it will employ new measures to raise the number of days of good air quality to 67 percent and cut down the emission of sulfur dioxide by 10 percent this year. But control of Beijing’s air quality is not entirely in the city’s hands. New research shows pollution blows in from other cities in the region.

The Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau said today that to bring the coal-burning pollutants under control, the city will use new energy sources to replace coal for the 1,105 remaining coal-fired boilers under 20 tons in the downtown area.

Coal will be replaced by other sources of power for the 20,000 families living in one-story houses in the Dongcheng and Xicheng districts, and for residents living within the Fifth-Ring Road, an area where urban and rural areas overlap.

To control vehicle pollutants, authorities are going to enforce the IV national emission standard for new vehicles in 2008.

In addition, a total of 2,580 old buses and 5,000 taxis and other highly polluting vehicles will be taken off the roads, the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau said. In 2006, 15,000 polluting taxis and over 3,000 buses were eliminated while 4,000 natural gas driven buses were put into operation.

Fresno Airport Goes Solar In a Big Way

FRESNO, Calif. – The Fresno Yosemite International Airport will soon be partially powered by the largest solar electric project at any airport in the United States. Mayor Alan Autry said, "This project further establishes Fresno as a national leader amongst municipal governments in the innovative use of renewal energy and protecting the environment."

WorldWater & Power Corp, developer and marketer of proprietary high-power solar systems, has been awarded a 20 year solar electric power purchase contract by the Fresno City Council for the airport solar system. The two megawatt state-of-the-art solar electric power system will cover about 25 acres and will eventually provide up to 40 percent of the airport’s annual power consumption.

In total, Fresno is projected to save nearly $13 million in energy costs over 25 years by installing the solar system.

Air Pollution Rules Relaxed for U.S. Ethanol Producers

The federal government said today that it will permit corn milling facilities that make ethanol for fuel to emit more than double the amount of air pollutants previously allowed. The new rule is expected to increase the amount of ethanol available for fuel.

The final rule issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) treats facilities producing ethanol for human consumption, industrial use or fuel equally under Clean Air Act permitting requirements.

Until now, corn milling plants that make ethanol for use as a fuel additive have only been allowed to emit 100 tons of polluting emissions per year, while plants that make ethanol for human consumption have been permitted to emit 250 tons per year.

The new EPA rule allows all ethanol producers using corn or other carbohydrate feedstocks to emit 250 tons of air pollutants per year.

Previously, the agency had classified drymill ethanol plants as "chemical process plants" and had subjected them to the 100 ton per year threshold that applies to other chemical process plants.

The decision will not impact existing state and federal air quality standards and existing emission control technologies will continue to be required.

Novel Nanoparticles Direct Medicines Into Tumors

A nanotechnology research team has created biodegradable lifesaving particles that can deliver medicine deep into the lungs or infiltrate cancer cells while leaving normal ones alone.

Only 100 to 300 nanometers wide – more than 100 times thinner than a human hair – the nanoparticles can be loaded with medicines or imaging agents, like gold, that will enhance the detection capabilities of medical tests such as CT scans and MRIs.

"The intersection of materials science and chemistry is allowing advances that were never before possible," said Robert Prud’homme, a Princeton chemical engineering professor and the director of the team of scientists at Princeton, the University of Minnesota and Iowa State University funded by the National Science Foundation.

He said, "No one had a good route to incorporate drugs and imaging agents in nanoparticles," which are particles measured in billionths of meters.

Prud’homme presented the team’s research April 11 in a talk titled "How Size Matters in the Retention of Nanomaterials in Tissue," to be given at the National Academy of Sciences meeting on Nanomaterials in Biology and Medicine in Washington, D.C.

The Princeton-led team, which includes chemical engineering professors Yannis Kevrekidis and Athanassios Panagiotopoulos, is the first to apply the technology to the creation of nanoparticles.

Global Warming Brings Perpetual Drought to U.S. Southwest

Human-caused climate change is likely to lead to long periods of extreme drought throughout the American Southwest starting early this century, finds a new study released by the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, a member of The Earth Institute at Columbia University.

The researchers compared the coming drought to the Dustbowl of the 1930s that sent millions of environmental refugees fleeing to California from across the Great Plains.

In contrast to past droughts, future drying is not linked to any particular pattern of change in sea surface temperature but seems to be the result of "an overall surface warming driven by rising greenhouse gases," researchers said.

"The arid lands of southwestern North America will imminently become even more arid as a result of human-induced climate change just at the time that population growth is increasing demand for water, most of which is still used by agriculture," said Richard Seager, senior research scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and one of the lead authors of the study.

Appearing recently in the journal "Science," the research shows that there is a broad consensus amongst climate models that this region will dry in the 21st Century and that the transition to a more arid climate may already be underway.

If these models are correct, the levels of aridity of the recent multiyear drought, or the Dustbowl and 1950s droughts, will, "within the coming years to decades, become the new climatology of the American Southwest," the researchers said.

Bush Administration Limits Free Speech About Polar Bears

The Bush administration has issued an order that would halt free discussion by scientists and other government officials on the role of global warming in threatening the survival of polar bears.

In a memo obtained by groups working on the listing of the polar bear as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act, the administration requires that all government travel requests "potentially involving climate change, sea ice, and/or polar bears" be accompanied by a memorandum "including a statement of assurance that these individuals understand the administration’s position on these issues."

The two examples of such memos provided with the order both include assurances that the employees would "not be speaking or responding to these issues."

"We need leadership, not censorship on global warming," said Andrew Wetzler, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Endangered Species Project. "We rely on our government scientists and officials to be honest brokers with the public on important issues. This directive restricts their ability to do their jobs."

Ivory Trade Threatens Future of African Elephants

The illegal ivory trade is flourishing and threatens to undermine efforts to save the African elephant from extinction, according to a new study. Poaching of the species has risen to a level not seen in two decades, researchers report, and could doom the world’s largest land animal unless western governments step up efforts to halt the illegal trade.

"The illegal ivory trade recently intensified to the highest levels ever reported," according to the study, published in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

China’s burgeoning economy is a major force driving the growth of the illegal trade, escalating prices and attracting organized crime. A kilogram of ivory that sold for $200 in 2004 now fetches some $750, the researchers said, and from August 2005 through August 2006, authorities seized some 24 tons of illegal ivory destined for Asia.

But that figure represents only about 10 percent of the estimated illegal shipments, bringing the total closer to 240 tons – an amount that would require the slaughter of more than 23,000 elephants, about 5 percent of the estimated wild African population.

"Policing this trafficking has been hampered by the inability to reliably determine the geographic origin of contraband ivory," according to the study. "Ivory can be smuggled across multiple international borders and along numerous trade routes, making poaching hotspots and potential trade routes difficult to identify."

The World Conservation Union estimates some 400,000 to 600,000 African elephants remain in the wild, down from as many as 1.3 million in 1979. Poaching and habitat loss are the key threats to the species.

Canadian Tundra Turning Green

EDMONTON, Canada – Northern Canada’s tundra is disappearing at a rapid rate, with forests of spruce trees and shrubs taking over the once frozen landscape, new research finds. The study offers further evidence of climate change and the authors warn it shows that the shift in the Canadian tundra can happen at a much faster speed than scientists originally thought.

The research examines changes in the treeline between forest and tundra ecosystems, a prominent landscape feature in both Arctic and mountain environments.

Scientists have long believed that the treeline will advance as global temperatures continue to increase, but the new study shows that such a shift will not always occur gradually.

"The conventional thinking on treeline dynamics has been that advances are very slow because conditions are so harsh at these high latitudes and altitudes," explained study author Ryan Danby, a biologist with the University of Alberta. "But what our data indicates is that there was an upslope surge of trees in response to warmer temperatures. It’s like it waited until conditions were just right and then it decided to get up and run, not just walk."

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