Eco News


    Largest residential green building expo coming to SF

    SAN FRANCISCO – Prompted by the tremendous groundswell of public interest in green building, West Coast Green – the nation’s premier residential tradeshow focused exclusively on green products, design and sustainability – will open its doors September 28-30 in San Francisco’s Bill Graham Auditorium. This event will gather under one roof for the first time pioneering trade professionals from all over the nation, plus homeowners eager to educate themselves about the exciting developments in green and healthy building.

    By opening the tradeshow to homeowners on the final day, West Coast Green strikes an unprecedented balance between maintaining the highest standards for a professional conference and expo while making an important nod to the driving force behind the upsurge in green building – the consumer. This innovative format promises to draw more than 6,000 professional attendees and, on the final day, more than 12,000 homeowners, making West Coast Green the largest green residential conference and expo ever to be held.

    Keynote speakers will include Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and trade innovators Ed Mazria and Sarah Susanka. More than 120 other speakers – all top leaders in the fields of green architecture, engineering, planning, design and building supply – will address attendees on diverse topics grouped around seven well-developed educational tracks, many of which can garner attendees industry-sanctioned credits. Sessions will include panels, discussion forums, case studies, networking, Q&A, and provide unparalleled insights into the latest and most revolutionary developments in the green building industry.

    More than 250 exhibitors will showcase the latest innovations in resource-efficient materials along with green and healthy building products.

    West Coast Green’s founder and executive producer, Christi Graham, notes, "We’ve gone out of our way to find the best of the best-the most revered pioneers and the most advanced innovations in the field of residential green building to create an event that is truly exceptional."

    – World-Wire/Environmental News Service

    First six months of 2006 warmest on record

    ASHEVILLE, N.C. – The average temperature for the continental United States from January through June 2006 was the warmest first half of any year since records began in 1895, according to scientists at the NOAA National Climatic Data Center in Asheville.

    The continuation of below normal precipitation in certain regions and much warmer than average temperatures expanded moderate to extreme drought conditions in the lower 48 states.

    The global surface temperature was second warmest on record for June.

    The average January-June temperature for the contiguous United States was 51.8 degrees F, or 3.4 degrees F above the 20th century average.

    Five states – Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri – experienced record warmth for the period. No state was near or cooler than average.

    In the West, 11 states were much warmer than average. Only five states – Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and South Carolina – were cooler than normal for the month.

    Additionally, from January through June, warm, dry conditions spawned more than 50,000 wildfires, burning more than 3 million acres in the contiguous U.S. and Alaska, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

    – Environmental News Service (

    The things they didn’t tell you about ethanol

    In the wake of ever-escalating gasoline prices, the ethanol craze has officially taken hold. Congress has approved $5.7 billion in federal tax credits to support the ethanol market, in addition to the $10 billion U.S. corn farmers annually receive in subsidies. While the corn-industry-lobbying-machine has President Bush predicting ethanol will replace gasoline, the science behind corn-based ethanol seems to suggest this alternative fuel may be more about politics than an actual solution. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, it takes the equivalent of three barrels of oil to create four barrels of corn-based ethanol. Couple that with the fact that ethanol gets lower miles per gallon than gasoline, and the corn-based solution begins to show its true colors.

    But other nations are demonstrating that plant-based ethanol fuels can help meet our energy needs. Brazil makes ethanol from sugar-cane, which is almost eight times more energy efficient to produce than the US corn-based fuel. President Bush has made a surprising call to eliminate a two decade long tariff on ethanol produced from sugarcane in Brazil. Sugarcane produces eight times more energy per pound than corn, making U.S. corn-based ethanol appear to be irrational and inefficient.

    But according to Monte Shaw, executive director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, a biofuel trade organization, competition in the global marketplace will only create demands for U.S. farmers to generate biofuels more efficiently. Meanwhile, Archer Daniels Midland, one of the most powerful corporate agribusiness lobbyists in Washington, continues to successfully push Congress to approve subsidizing the less efficient corn-based ethanol with billions of dollars of taxpayer money. Some studies have estimated that in order to replace all U.S. oil imports with domestically produced corn ethanol, as much as five times the entire area currently farmed for all crops in the U.S. would be needed.


    Pearl Jam offsets climate footprint of 2006 world tour

    LOS ANGELES – The rock band Pearl Jam is in the midst of a 69 date world tour that opened April 20 in London, England, and will close November 25 in Perth, Australia. The band has decided to offset emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) released on the tour – from the trucks, buses, airplane travel, hotel rooms, concerts venues and fans driving to and from their concerts – by providing funding to nine non-profit organizations that help, in various ways, to reduce global warming.

    Calling the initiative their "Carbon Portfolio," the band announced that they are contributing a total of $100,000 to the American Solar Energy Society, the Bonneville Environmental Foundation, the Cascade Land Conservancy, Conservation International, EarthCorps, Green Empowerment, Honor the Earth, IslandWood and the Washington Clean Energy Initiative.

    The negative impacts associated with rising global temperatures as a result of increased CO2 emissions include variable and volatile weather, increased diseases, the death of coral reefs and the melting of the polar ice caps.

    – Environmental News Service (

    EPA scientists condemn EPA

    In an unprecedented move, EPA’s own scientists are lashing out against the agency, saying the profits of the pesticide industry are taking priority over measures to protect public health. A union of more than 9,000 EPA scientists has submitted a letter to the EPA’s Administrator, Stephen Johnson, indicating that due to industry pressure, the "integrity of the science upon which agency decisions are based has been compromised."

    In particular, the scientists are concerned about a group of organophosphate pesticides they believe should no longer be allowed on the market due to their harmful effects on children, infants and fetuses. Specifically, the letter references 20 toxic pesticides that were developed from nerve gases after World War II, many of which are still available for purchase at most gardening centers. The EPA has not responded to the letter.


    Top 10 list of local government green power partners

    WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released its first national Top 10 Local Government Partners list highlighting the largest renewable energy purchases made by municipal and local government entities currently in the Green Power Partnership. The Top 10 list reflects Partner purchase information through June 26.

    Topping the list is the City of San Diego, followed in second place by the Austin Independent School District in Texas.

    Rounding out the top six local government purchasers of green power are Montgomery County Wind Buyers Group in Maryland, East Bay Municipal Utility District’s Main WWT Plant in California, the Round Rock Independent School District in Texas, and the City of Portland, Oregon.

    Combined, the green power purchases of these Top 10 Local Government Partners amounts to over 283 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of green power annually. This is enough renewable energy to power 26,000 average U.S. homes per year or is equivalent to removing the emissions of nearly 35,000 cars annually.

    EPA’s Green Power Partnership is a voluntary program helping to increase the use of green power among leading U.S. organizations. The program encourages organizations to purchase green power as a way to reduce the risk of climate change and the environmental impacts associated with conventional electricity use.

    Currently, the Green Power Partnership has more than 600 Partners voluntarily purchasing over 5.3 billion kWh of green power. Partners include Fortune 500 companies, local, state, and federal governments, trade associations, as well as colleges and universities.

    – Environmental News Service (

    Self-cooling soda bottles just around the corner

    DENVER – Researchers are developing a thin-film technology that adheres both solar cells and heat pumps onto surfaces, turning walls, windows and even soda bottles into climate control systems.

    Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) researcher Steven Van Dessel and his colleagues recently announced their most recent progress, including a computer model to help them simulate the climate within their test structure atop the RPI Student Union at the Solar 2006 Conference in Denver.

    For four years, the researchers have been working on their prototype Active Building Envelope (ABE) system. Comprised of solar panels, solid-state, thermoelectric heat pumps and a storage device to provide energy on rainy days, the ABE system accomplishes the jobs of both cooling and heating, yet operates silently with no moving parts.

    The National Science Foundation is supporting the team to determine if a microscale version of the technology will function effectively.

    According to Van Dessel, thin-film advances could potentially lead to functional thermal coatings composed of transparent ABE systems. Such systems might improve the efficiency of temperature-control systems.

    "The ease of application would make it possible to seamlessly attach the system to various building surfaces," Van Dessel said, "possibly rendering conventional air conditioning and heating equipment obsolete."

    Van Dessel hopes a thin-film version of the ABE system will see uses in a range of industries, from aerospace – in advanced thermal control systems in future space missions – to the automotive industry, where it could be applied to windshields and sun roofs, giving them the ability to heat or cool a car’s interior.

    "It also may be possible to one day use the ABE system to create packaging materials for thermal control," he added, "which could lead to things like self-cooling soda bottles."

    – Environmental News Service (

    Pronghorns crowded out of ancient migration routes

    BOZEMAN, Mont. – The mammal that undertakes the longest remaining overland migration in the continental United States could vanish from the ecosystem that includes Yellowstone National Park, according to a study by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and National Park Service.

    The pronghorn antelope travels more than 400 miles between fawning grounds and wintering areas, but its ancient migration route could disappear because of continued development and human disturbance outside the parks according to the study.

    "It’s amazing that this marathon migration persists in a nation of almost 300 million people," said WCS researcher Joel Berger, the study’s lead author. "At the same time, the migration is in real trouble, and needs immediate recognition and protection."

    The study, which appears in the latest issue of the journal Biology Letters, says that pronghorn have used the existing migration route in and out of the Yellowstone ecosystem for at least 6,000 years. The antelope travel up to 30 miles a day, over 8,500-foot mountain passes, and through bottlenecks now little wider than a football field due to recent residential development.

    Increased petroleum extraction could further impact the migration route. Six of eight antelope migration corridors in and out of the Yellowstone ecosystem have already been lost.

    Berger and his co-authors say safeguarding the migration route would be relatively easy, since the antelope population has used the same corridor for so long, unlike other overland migrants, such as caribou, which often change routes from year to year.

    While pronghorn are abundant in many areas of the American West, Berger says there are both biological and historical reasons to preserving this particular population, which numbers around 200 to 300 animals.

    "The protection of this migration corridor is more than symbolic," he said. "An entire population from a national park could be eliminated, leaving a conspicuous gap in the ecology and function of native predator-prey interactions."

    – Environmental News Service (

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