Electronics Need to Step Up to Meet new Energy Star Standards

The EPA announced new standards for electonics seeking to grab the brass ring – the Energy Star rating.

Now computer monitors, digital picture frames and other types of displays will have to be 20 percent more energy efficient than normal conventional models.

The projected energy savings for all such electronic equipment meeting this new standard is estimated at $1 billion a year, the equivalent of preventing greenhouse gas emissions from 1.5 million vehicles per year.

This is the fifth revision in this category’s Energy Star standards since its creation. For more details on the Energy Star program, see www.energystar.gov

Bayor Trying to Limit Disclosure on Chemical Pesticide Explosion

Last August, Bayor CropScience was witness to a tremendous chemical explosion that killed two employees and raised fears in the surrounding West Virginia community.

A federal agency is now trying to set a public hearing to outline it’s preliminary findings as to the explosion’s cause.

In an unprecedented move, Bayor is trying to limit what is disclosed by citing a terrorism-related federal law.

With a dock for managing large shipments on the adjacent Kanawha River, Bayor is claiming its 400-acre site falls under the 2002 Maritime Transportation Security Act.  Since the Coast Guard has jurisdiction under this act, Bayor has asked it to review any release of “sensitive security information.”

The Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board says that in its 11 years of operation, this is the first time the maritime act has been invoked in this way and the first time a company has tried to limit such public discussions.

Bayor apparently wants to limit revealing potential hazards posed by the chemical methyl isocyanate – a chemical used in the production of carbonate pesticides that  their plant produces and that’s reponisible for the deaths in Bhopal, India of thousands of people after a leak in a Union Carbide plant in 1984.

If Bayor is successful, this could set a precedent to limit information by other chemical companies.

After invoking the maritime act, the chemical agency cancelled its initial meeting, attempting to resolve the dispute.

Representative Bart Stupak (D-Michigan), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, scheduled a hearing to review the company’s action.

“We are concerned about the way Bayer may be misusing terrorism laws to suppress information related to the incident,” said Stupak.

According to a Coast Guard spokesman, Bayor may indeed be a “regulated facility”, allowing them to protect information.

Yet another example of a large corporation seeking to deny culpability by attempting to sweep the facts under the rug, attempting to play out the old adage of “what you don’t know won’t hurt you”.

Chinese Propose Global Greenhouse Gas Trade Plan

China’s State Council Development Research Center has proposed a global greenhouse gas trade plan to address the varying levels of GHG from rich and poor countries.

The Beijing think tank released their plan in the March issue of China’s Economic Research Journal, published on March 20th.

A separate report by the Chinese Academy of Sciences outlined that nation’s total GHG emissions would peak between 2030 and 2040, then fall, the Guangming Daily reported.

It’s believed that China has now surpassed the United States in annual carbon dioxide emissions from farming, industry and land clearing.

Though smaller in ratio, the significantly larger 1.3 billion population accounts for the larger percentage of greenhouse gas emissions at4 tons of per person.  The U.S. reportedly emits approximately 20 tons of GHG per person.

The think tank proposes setting emission “rights” per country, based on emission levels, then allowing nations to trade these rights on the international market.

For more details, see http://planetark.org/wen/52208.

Environment Loses Big Time to Border Patrol

Border Patrol to poison plant life along the Rio Grande

Border Patrol to poison plant life along the Rio Grande

In yet another effort to cut back on illegal crossings, the US Border Patrol will begin using herbicides to poison plant life along the US-Mexico border.

This pilot program is one of three methods the Border Patrol is testing to eliminate thick stalked carrizo cane which they say smugglers, illegal immigrants and robbers use to hide behind. Teams of agents will also try cutting the plants by hand, then painting the stumps with an herbicide called Imazapyr, and digging them out by their roots.

The most controversial method would be spraying the plants by helicopter with Imazapyr.

Although the EPA and Border Patrol insist the herbicide is safe for animals, Mexican officials are concerned it could threaten the safety of Nuevo Laredo’s  water supply.

This $2.1 million project, if successful across a 1.1 mile stretch of the Rio Grande border, would then be implemented along much of the river’s 130 miles of the Laredo, Texas sector, as well as along other parts of the US-Mexico border.

The U.S. Border Patrol says after spraying, it would then “green” the river’s edge again by planting native plants., naive thinking at best.

Concerned citizen groups are comparing this plan to Vietnam-era use of Agent Orange. Jay Johnson-Castro, Sr. Executive Director of the Rio Grande International Study Center at Laredo Community College, located next to the planned test area, said “it’s unprecedented they do (this) in a populated area.”

Johnson-Castro has no issue about removing the cane, a non-native plant introduced by Spaniards centuries ago, just with the method used.

“It’s complicated,” says Laredo Mayor Raul Salinas. “We have to think about protecting our border.”

“But let’s do it in a sensible way,” he said, to make sure that humans won’t be harmed, nor vegetation (or) animals, nor the environment.”

Sensible words, but it’s unlikely the Border Patrol will go that direction, given it’s penchant for actions that completely disregard environmental concerns and established facts.

Desert Solar Could Bring Power to all Europe

Projected Solar Array in the Sahara Desert

Projected Solar Array in the Sahara Desert

The use of solar power has seen tremendous growth around the world – for homes, commercial and even government use.

Now a researcher at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria says solar could end up bringing power to all of Europe.

Dr. Anthony Patt, addressing scientists at this week’s climate change conference in Copenhagen, said a large solar array in the Sahara Desert could supply all of Europe’s energy demands.

Commenting on the incredible strength of the sun in the African Sahara, Patt estimated that solar panels would need to be installed in a portion of the Sahara the size of a small country to transmit power to all of Europe. Mirrors would focus the sun on thin pipes containing either salt or water, converting the sun’s energy into thermal solar power.

As exciting as this possibility is, however, Patt cautioned that opposition would likely be a hurdle to such a project. Also the projected cost of around $70 billion could deter government backing.

Still, the idea of bringing clean energy to numerous countries currently addicted to coal and nuclear power is appealing. Whether or not governments can see past the funding and regional concerns should be interesting to see.

Climate Change Forces New Eurpoean Borders

Swiss and Italian authorities plan to redraw their mutual border due to the rapid disappearance of centuries old glaciers, the long-held delineation between the two countries.

Zurich’s daily newspaper, Tages-Anzeiger reports that after 50 years of stability, the border must be now reset.

In an unprecedented decision, authorities plan to establish a border that is both set and mobile, to accommodate for further glacial deterioration caused by climate change.

Authorities say citizens of Switzerland and Germany will not be effected by the change. A bill currently being examined by the foreign commission of the chamber of deputies in Rome will establish a new border in the high mountains on what is government property.

SC Johnson Raises the Bar, Encouraging Environmentalists

Mos consumers have little to no idea what’s in the cleaning products they use.

SC Johnson – maker of Windex, Pine Sol, Shout and a variety other products – plans to disclose their complete ingredient list on their cleaning and air care products, something the industry has balked at doing.

The key industry hold-out for disclosure has been the fragrance industry, citing propietary confidentiality as the chief reason for their reluctance.

Eric Thompson Switaski of Women’s Voices for the Earth said “SC Johnson just raised the bar for the entire cleaning products industry.”

SC Johnson also announced it has told fragrance suppliers to discontinue use of phthalates, a controversial chemical. SCJ currently uses a phthalate called DEP in their cleaning and air freshener products. Environmental groupsincluding the NRDC applaud this change.

For more details on this story, see http://tinyurl.com/cjazpm

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