Friday, November 30, 2007
Improving Drought Forecasts
November 30, 2007: From the deserts of the American southwest to the pine forests of the Deep South, drought-weary residents have one thing on their minds: "I wish it would rain!"
Technically, what they should be wishing for is "more streamflow," says Dr. Ashutosh Limaye, a hydrologist at the National Space Science and Technology Center (NSSTC) in Huntsville, Alabama.
Streamflow is a term used by water management specialists to mean, very simply, the amount of water in streams and rivers. Areas of drought have reduced streamflow, and experts believe they can better forecast droughts by studying this key indicator of dry conditions.
"Streamflow is always changing, from day to day and even minute to minute, for a wide variety of reasons: evaporation from the soil and from bodies of water, runoff from rainfall and snowmelt, transpiration by plants and trees, and other natural...(complete story here).
'Nature's banks' pays dividends
Marine reserves, co-managed by local communities, can help alleviate the impact of poverty, a study suggests.
Research into four successful schemes showed that getting villagers involved in protection projects reduced harmful overfishing and protected incomes.
Average incomes of people who had established no-fish zones were more than double those who did not have protected areas, the authors found.
The researchers produced the...(complete article here).
Global ETF Briefing
The Inconvenient Truth About China
Carl Delfeld, Chartwell ETF Advisor 10.12.07, 6:40 PM ET
Nobel Peace Prize co-winner Al Gore might want to change the name of his famous $40 million PowerPoint presentation to “The Inconvenient Truth About China.” While the media and policy establishment are preoccupied with global warming issues that may have important consequences in 50 years, an environmental disaster exists in China right now. This significant challenge, however, is also a major opportunity for the Chinese leadership and American business.
To get your attention, below is just a sampling of facts drawn from...(complete article here).
MIT, Chevron announce energy program
Research to focus on accessing ultra-deepwater energy reserves
November 21, 2007
MIT and Chevron Corporation have announced an energy research program to develop remote, ultra-deepwater exploration and production technology.
The $5 million Chevron Remote and Ultra-deepwater Research Program will focus on developing the technologies required to...(complete article here).
Towards a low carbon future: European Strategic Energy Technology Plan
On 22 November, the European Commission will present the European Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET-Plan) (see IP/07/1750). Low carbon technologies will play a vital role in reaching our energy and climate change targets. The main goal of the SET-Plan is to accelerate the development and implementation of these technologies. This background note sets out the details of the SET Plan. Its rationale accompanied by some useful background figures and charts is set out in MEMO/07/494.
Technology is vital for reaching energy and climate change objectives
The inter-related challenges of climate change, security of energy supply and competitiveness are multifaceted and require a coordinated response. We are piecing together a far-reaching jigsaw of policies and measures: binding targets for 2020 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by...(complete article here).
MIT Clean Energy Entrepreneurship Prize established to drive innovative ideas to market
$200,000 cash for top prize to be awarded by NSTAR and DOE
November 28, 2007
The MIT Clean Energy Entrepreneurship Prize of $200,000 is being announced today, kicking off a program to help develop and motivate the next generation of energy entrepreneurs. The nationwide competition is sponsored by MIT, NSTAR Electric & Gas Corporation and the United States Department of Energy (US DOE).
"Working together with visionary leaders such as...(complete article here).
I think too often governments forget that the well-being of all people must be raised in order for economies to thrive. Instead of repressing people groups or those in specific economic or social strata, governments should seek to improve the situation of all groups. The result will be more wealth for all.
Livestock production threatened by HIV/AIDS
Better management could increase livestock as a household asset
30 November 2007, Rome – Not only is AIDS taking a dramatic toll on human lives but livestock production, a main income earner for rural households, is also being threatened in the most affected countries, FAO warned today.
With more than 60 percent of all people aged between 15 and 49 years living with HIV to be found in sub-Saharan Africa of whom 11.4 million are children orphaned by AIDS, the effect on the all important livestock sector has become a real concern.
Livestock make a substantial contribution to...(complete article here).
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Top U.S. Nuclear Official Commends Industry for Submitting 3rd Combined Construction & Operating License Application to the NRC
RICHMOND, VA - The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy Dennis Spurgeon today commended Dominion North Anna, LLC (Dominion) for submission of a combined Construction and Operating License (COL) application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for construction of a new nuclear power plant in the United States. Dominion’s application seeks approval to build and operate one General Electric-Hitachi Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR) at its North Anna site near Mineral, Virginia, and will serve as the reference application for future utilities applying to construct an ESBWR. After nearly a 30-year period without any applications submitted to the NRC, this marks...(complete article here).
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Someone forgot to tell our government that there is an infrastructure problem facing the renewable fuels industry. There aren't enough rail cars to get all of the ethanol to where it needs to be. The blenders can't get the ethanol from the railheads to their plants. You can't put ethanol in a pipeline because of the corrosive nature of the product. In many parts of the country ethanol is unavailable. We can produce it, we just can't get it to where it is needed.
Monday, November 26, 2007
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Sweet Potato Promises Hunger Relief In Developing Countries
ScienceDaily (Nov. 21, 2007) — Sweetpotatoes, often misunderstood and underrated, are receiving new attention as a life-saving food crop in developing countries.
According to the International Potato Center, more than 95 percent of the global sweetpotato crop is grown in developing countries, where it is the fifth most important food crop. Despite its name, the sweetpotato is not related to the potato. Potatoes are tubers (referring to their thickened stems) and members of the Solanaceae family, which also includes tomatoes, red peppers, and eggplant. Sweetpotatoes are classified as "storage roots" and belong to the morning-glory family.
Scientists believe that sweetpotatoes were domesticated more than 5,000 years ago and...(complete article here).
Seriously, sweet potatoes are a great, healthy food source for the developing -- and the developed -- world.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Rush to build ethanol plants loses its steam
Monday, November 19, 2007
Suzanna Stagemeyer - Kansas City Business Journal
Local ethanol producers are delaying or canceling new projects as they endure hits ranging from tighter margins to rising construction costs.
Alternative Energy Sources Inc. said earlier this year that it would open three plants in 2008. Now, the Kansas City-based public company plans to open two corn-based ethanol plants in 2009 if it gets financing early next year, according to a Nov. 14 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The company will seek...(complete article here).
The article places the blame for the ethanol "slow-down" on supply and demand. Those are always good things to blame in a capitalistic economy such as ours is supposed to be. However, it takes the author to the next-to-last line to hit upon the real underlying issue that is currently dogging the industry -- the infrastructure. Until we can get the ethanol to where it needs to be in an efficient manner there will be problems. Our country's fuel infrastucture is built around the oil and gas industry. It will require additional infrastructure investment to accomodate the ethanol industry.
EU to reform its farm subsidies
By Dominic Laurie Europe
business reporter, BBC News, Brussels
The EU Commission has proposed reforms to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which eats up 40% of its 106bn euro ($157bn; £76bn) annual budget.
Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel says the changes will make it fit for an enlarged 27-state EU.
The biggest change would be to reduce subsides above 100,000 euros by 10%, above 200,000 euros by 20% and above 300,000 euros by 45%.
The amount of land a farmer has...(complete article here).
It appears that the policy changes suggested will continue to benefit the largest producers and will eliminate the micro-farmers from the program. This is somewhat counter to what I perceive is a trend in modern agriculture. I foresee a bi-modal model in which there are large corporate-type farms that produce commodity crops for fuel and feed and then there are micro-farms that are focused more on fruits and vegetables and other specialty crops. Both need to be encouraged, supported and "influenced" through subsides rather than regulation. It is the "carrot" rather than the "stick."
Monday, November 19, 2007
Wild Turkeys Invading Suburban U.S.
Brian Handwerkfor National Geographic News
November 19, 2007
The Pilgrims found New England in the 1600s to be well stocked with wild turkeys, which figured into their regular diet, including the original Thanksgiving feast.
But by the 1930s the native birds had been hunted to near extinction in North America, numbering only in the tens of thousands.
Today, thanks to reintroduction efforts, there are about seven million wild turkeys, and they are thriving in...(complete article here).
USGS Examines Importance of Water Budgets in Addressing Water Availability
ConcernsReleased: 11/19/2007 11:42:45 AM
Contact Information:U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological SurveyOffice of Communication119 National CenterReston, VA 20192
William Alley Phone: 619-225-6125
Jennifer LaVista Phone: 703-648-4432
A new USGS Circular illustrates the importance of water budgets as an essential tool in addressing concerns about water availability in the 21st Century.
Ensuring sustainable water supplies requires an understanding of the hydrologic cycle. Water budgets enable an accounting of water as it moves through Earth's atmosphere, land surface and subsurface. This tool provides...(complete article here).
New Tools Make Understanding Air Quality Easier Than Ever
Release date: 11/19/2007
Contact Information: Margot Perez-Sullivan, (202) 564-4355/ firstname.lastname@example.org
(Washington, D.C. – November 19, 2007) Ever used your computer to "fly" through the mountains, or zoom in on a satellite picture of your house? Now you can use the same technology to learn more about emissions and air quality across the country and where you live.
EPA has developed two tools that let computer users "see" air quality information on...(complete article and link to tools here).
Aquaculture only way to fill the coming "fish gap"
Top ministers debate the future of fish farming
19 November 2007, Rome - By 2030 an additional 37 million tonnes of fish per year will be needed to maintain current levels of fish consumption for an expanded world population. Because traditional capture fisheries have reached their maximum production levels, fish farming represents...(complete article here).
“New agriculture” needs new FAO
Climate change, population growth and FAO’s own future among key challenges
19 November 2007, Rome - Agriculture will play a crucial role in the key issues facing humanity this century, FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf said today. “I should like to see the new agriculture aligned with a new FAO”.
Dr Diouf was addressing FAO’s supreme governing body, the 192-member Conference, at the start of a week-long session due to decide on proposals for a major reform of...(complete article here).
Friday, November 16, 2007
Trumpeter Swans Re-established In Ontario, Canada
ScienceDaily (Nov. 16, 2007) — Originally native to Ontario, the trumpeter swan disappeared from Eastern Canada early in the 20th century. Restoration efforts were initiated in the early 1980s to reintroduce the trumpeter swan to its former range. Through conservation efforts the Ontario population has reached 1000, with at least 131 breeding pairs, and the future looks bright.
How the Swans Were Reintroduced
The trumpeter swan’s extirpation from eastern Canada roughly 200 years ago was primarily due to hunting pressure. Populations remaining in...(complete article here.)
US wants freeze on tuna fishing
By Anna-Marie Lever
Science and nature reporter, BBC News
The US is calling for a ban on the fishing of bluefin tuna in the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea.
A three-to-five-years ban is being proposed to the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (Iccat).
The call comes amid...(complete article here).
Food Vs. Fuel
11.15.07, 6:00 PM ET
The world's poor spend twice what they did on food just seven years ago, yet still starve in greater numbers. An eight-year-long drought in Australia, the lengthiest in 200 years, has helped keep global supplies of wheat and corn tight. Concern about climate change has led to biofuels subsidies that pit hungry mouths and empty gas tanks against each other.
A rising middle class in Asia is developing a taste for meat, so crops that might go to feed people are being diverted to cows and chickens. Within the next year, China...(complete article here).
Acid Rain Forming Emissions Fall Sharply, EPA Reports
Release date: 11/16/2007
Contact Information: Margot Perez-Sullivan, (202) 564-4355 / email@example.com
(11/16/07) For the first time ever, sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions from the power sector fell below 10 million tons as reported by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Acid Rain Program and Related Programs 2006 Progress Report. 2006 marks the 12th year of what is widely hailed as one of the most successful environmental programs in U.S. history.
In 2006, annual SO2 emissions from...(complete article here).
I had the privilege last week of hearing a number of speakers address some of the issues concerning ethanol and its impact on the beef industry. Much of what I heard was technical in nature – specifically related to the impact of ethanol co-products on cattle nutrition. However, there was much that was general in nature. The thoughts below are capsules of some of that information after it has been distilled through my own thinking.
Ethanol is an explosion into agriculture that is in the process of creating some of the most dramatic change since World War II. It has created a level of fear and uncertainty at all levels of production as well as in industries dependent upon agriculture.
Ethanol is here to stay. There will likely be restructuring as the industry moves beyond its infancy into a more mature phase. Because they are stainless steel, most new plants have an estimated 85 year life expectancy. Even if the current owner of the plant goes out of business, it will be bought for cents on the dollar and kept in production.
Today, logistical issues are the most important factor slowing its growth. Ethanol plants are not hooked into the national pipeline system. Although most plants are located on rail lines, their product must be shipped to blenders that sometimes are not. Therefore, trucking to blending locations from rail terminals can be an issue.
The large expected corn crop this year is great news for the new plants coming on line. What happens when we have a drought in the Midwest? It has happened before. New corn genetics have mitigated the potential impact, however, high and volatile corn prices will likely be the norm for many years.
We should expect to see wide variation in the cost of feeding cattle between different regions of the country. Those lots near concentrations of corn and ethanol plants will have an advantage on cost of feed over those feedlots at a distance from corn growing areas. Although ethanol plants are locating near existing feedlots, they will be importing corn. High transportation costs associated with high fuel prices will place areas like the High Plains of Texas at a disadvantage. Feedlots near heavy concentrations of ethanol plants will be able to substitute ethanol co-products for a high percentage of their ration. This will offset to a large extent, the competition for corn. Many will be able to remove corn from their ration altogether and feed rations consisting primarily of distiller’s grains and ground straw or corn stalks.
The cost of feeding variations coupled with high transportation costs will create large price disparities in feeder cattle on a regional basis. We are already seeing large variations in the price of feeder calves between South Texas and the Nebraska Sandhills that is not strictly a function of quality. It is a function of fuel prices, corn prices, and the availability of ethanol co-products. This regional price disparity will continue to be an issue.
With wheat prices remaining above $8 for the foreseeable future, wheat pasture will be at a premium if available at all. This will further erode the market for beef calves located at great distance from the lower-cost feeding areas such as Nebraska and Iowa. Competition for pasture will increase nationally.
The next few years will see the beef industry – and in particular, the cattle feeding industry – struggling to find a point of equilibrium in the marketplace. Those who are able to adapt and capitalize on the turmoil will succeed. Those who do not make the adjustment will fail. What we have known is in the process of being destroyed by this new behemoth of ethanol. Out of the chaos that it is creating will rise a new and stronger industry as it is re-created in an image that reflects the changes of the new renewable energy economy.
Crimson Rocket Peach Making Its Way to Market
By Sharon DurhamNovember 15, 2007
Crimson Rocket peach trees look like tall, thin cousins of the more classically-shaped peach trees. These "skinny" trees provide an attractive, space-saving tree that produces full-size peaches that could make their way to consumers...(complete announcement here).
Thursday, November 15, 2007
There are places in the country where it is cheaper now to feed cattle in a feedlot than to graze them on pasture. The cost of gain is approximately the same on certain cattle when feeding them diets with high ethanol co-products content as it costs to pasture them. When you compare 3+ lbs/day gain on the feedlot ration versus 1.5 lbs/day on grass, it's a no-brainer. Why tie up your money for a longer period starting calves on grass when you can accomplish more in less time in a feedlot? The times, they are a changin'....
EPA Seeks Nominations to New Agricultural Advisory Committee
Release date: 11/15/2007
Contact Information: Dave Ryan, (202) 564-4355 / firstname.lastname@example.org
(11/15/07) Continuing efforts to strengthen relations with the agriculture community, EPA announced in today's Federal Register a request for member nominations to the first-ever Farm, Ranch and Rural Communities Federal Advisory Committee.
The committee is being formed under the...(complete article here).
EPA Region 7 Announces Rollout of Environmental Manual for Ethanol Facilities
Release date: 11/15/2007
Contact Information: Kris Lancaster, (913) 551-7557, email@example.com
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(Kansas City, Kan., Nov. 15, 2007) - In the Midwest where ethanol plants are being planned in every direction, EPA Region 7 has developed a user-friendly manual that identifies environmental regulatory rules and requirements for construction and operation of ethanol production facilities.
Region 7 Administrator John B. Askew said, "We are taking steps to provide useful...(complete article here).
Turkmen gas industry opening to international markets
The country’s isolation is ending. With one the biggest natural gas reserves, the Central Asian nation wants Western investment to increase output and sales. A trans-Caspian gas pipelines is designed to counter Russia’s competition.
Ashgabat (AsiaNews/Agencies) – At least 500 investors and energy ministers from around the world have gathered in the Turkmen capital for a week-long conference which marks the end of a self-imposed isolation in the oil and gas sectors. For the past 21 years the Central Asian country was under the dictatorship of the late Saparmurat Niyazov and kept the outside world at arm’s length, except for Russia which bought most of its goods, at below market prices. The new...(complete article here).
System Offers New Option for Managing Manure
By Laura McGinnisNovember 13, 2007
A typical 1,000-head beef feedlot produces up to 280 tons of manure in just one week. That's a lot of manure—and for hundreds of U.S. cattle feedlots, disposal is an important management issue.
Fortunately, Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists in the Environmental Management Research Unit at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center (USMARC) at Clay Center, Neb., have developed and tested a...(complete article here).
With the increased feeding of ethanol co-products, the manure in feedlots will contain higher concentrations of phosporous. Recovering that phosphorous could be important to meeting fertilizer needs in some of the phosphorous defficient countries.
Paying farmers to protect the environment?
FAO publishes The State of Food and Agriculture 2007
15 November 2007, Rome - Carefully targeted payments to farmers could serve as an approach to protect the environment and to address growing concerns about climate change, biodiversity loss and water supply, FAO said today in its annual publication The State of Food and Agriculture.
The report however cautions that payments for environmental services are not the best solution in all situations, and that significant implementation challenges remain.
“Agriculture employs more people and uses more land and water than any other human activity,” said FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf in...(complete article here).
Crafting subsidies that balance the competing demands on agriculture is difficult. Food security, fuels, and the environment compete with each other for resources. Subsidy structures must balance the needs of each of these segments.
In the article it mentions the carbon sequestration role of agriculture. I wonder how large of a negative impact our push toward cellulosic based bio-fuels will have on this role? If we take corn stover and other plant biomass that would have been plowed back into the soil and instead convert it to fuel that will be burned, how much carbon is that removing from the soil?
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
IRAN – CHINA
Beijing offers Iran diplomatic cover (and weapons) for oil barrels
China’s foreign minister and Iran’s president praise Sino-Iranian friendship as their two-way trade reaches US$ 20 billion. Iran today gives the IAEA papers with information on nuclear weapon parts.
Tehran (AsiaNews) – Visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said that stronger Sino-Iranian ties are good for regional and international peace. Mr Yang, who arrived in Iran yesterday, today met his Iranian counterpart, Manouchehr Mottaki, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In a warning against the “enemies of the two nations” Mr Ahmadinejad said that “nothing can distort this friendly relation.”
The Iranian nuclear crisis was discussed in all the talks Mr Yang held in Tehran. The Iranians claim that their nuclear plans are peaceful. The international community suspects that Iran will escalate the nuclear civilian programme into a military one.
China believes that Iran has the right to...(complete article here).
Do you feel threatened yet?
Sun and global warming: A cosmic connection?
By Richard Black
Environment correspondent, BBC News website
In February 2007, depending on what newspaper you read, you might have seen an article detailing a "controversial new theory" of global warming.
The idea was that variations in cosmic rays penetrating the Earth's atmosphere would change the amount of cloud cover, in turn changing our planet's reflectivity, and so the temperature at its surface.
This, it was said, could be the reason why temperatures have been seen to be varying so much over the Earth's history, and why they are rising now.
The theory was detailed in a book, The Chilling Stars, written by Danish scientist Henrik Svensmark and British science writer Nigel Calder, which appeared on the shelves a week after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had published its landmark report concluding it was more than 90% likely that...(complete article here).
I think the conclusion here is that there are many theories concerning climate change floating around. Ultimately, we don't know with certainty what is causing the current warming trend. All we have today are theories and models.
New USDA Numbers Dispel Food And Fuel Debate; Supply Set to Outpace Demand
The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) is encouraged by last week’s U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) crop production report illustrating that the United States will have enough corn to support the country’s food supply, ethanol, and export uses.
For the marketing year ending in August 2008, the corn supply is projected to reach nearly 14.5 billion bushels, while demand is expected to hit 12.6 billion bushels. USDA estimates the 2007 corn crop will reach 13.2 billion bushels, the largest crop in U.S. history and 25 percent larger than the 2006 crop.
“The USDA World Supply and Demand (WASDE) figures unmistakably dispel the food versus fuel debate,” said NCGA President Ron Litterer. “Clearly...(complete article here).
Price is determined by the point at which supply and demand meet. Corn prices are at very high levels and are projected to stay there. They are either about to fall drastically as this record crop is harvested, or there is something wrong with the numbers in this article.
Corn supply adjusts on an annual basis subject to weather conditions such as drought, and various farm programs that seek to adjust acreages planted. Overall demand is reasonably fixed based on various types of usage (except when we see radical change in demand due to the introduction of a new competing use like ethanol). Competition among those who use the crop -- such as livestock feeders, masa makers, corn chip companies, ethanol plants, sweeteners, etc. -- determines the amount of corn actually utilized each year. They essentially bid against each other for corn until the price reaches a point at which they look for substitutes.
This is the point at which we must consider that there is a difference in quantity demanded at a particular price and overall demand. The same with quantity supplied at a particular price versus the overall supply. Price is determined by the point at which the supply and demand curves (schedule of prices versus quantity) intersect. The high prices that we are seeing are the result of competitive demands bidding up the price such that the profitability of growing corn is pulling acreage from other crops in order to supply the quantity demanded. The effect is an overall lifting of commodity prices -- especially from directly competitive crop acreage such as that normally allocated to soybeans, or sweet corn for human consuption, or white corn used in chips and tortillas.
Typically we see cyclical price variations from year-to-year. This is due to the time lag in gearing up production in response to prices. High prices this year mean more corn planted in the spring. If the amount planted and ultimately harvested is excessive relative to demand, prices fall and the next year less corn is planted. This effect creates a cyclicity in pricing that is somewhat predictable from year-to-year.
This cyclical effect will be somewhat mitigated next year due to the projected startup of many new ethanol plants. These new plants are anticipated to utilize all of the projected excess supply of corn and therefore prices will remain high.
In the U.S. the amount of corn used for food isn't the issue because it is primarily used as livestock feed. However, meats are human food and the price of corn affects the cost of feeding those animals which through various market mechanisms affects the price of meat.
In other countries -- Mexico especially -- corn makes up a much larger percentage of the diet. It has a direct impact on food prices there. Much of the masa used to make tortillas is produced in the U.S. Corn prices are critical for the cost of masa.
In conclusion, I disagree with the article. High corn prices are the result, to a large extent, of increased overall demand for corn resulting from the explosion of the ethanol industry. High corn prices impact food prices due to the competition of acreage planted to corn with acreage that would have been planted to other crops and through the impact of corn prices on the cost of feeding livestock.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Clean, carbon-neutral hydrogen on the horizon
Hydrogen as an everyday, environmentally friendly fuel source may be closer than we think, according to Penn State researchers.
"The energy focus is currently on ethanol as a fuel, but economical ethanol from cellulose is 10 years down the road," says Bruce E. Logan, the Kappe professor of environmental engineering. "First you need to break cellulose down to sugars and then bacteria can convert them to ethanol."
Logan and Shaoan Cheng, research associate, suggest a method based on microbial fuel cells to convert cellulose and other biodegradable organic materials directly into hydrogen in today's (Nov. 12) issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences online.
The researchers used naturally occurring bacteria in a microbial electrolysis cell with acetic acid – the acid found in vinegar. Acetic acid is also the predominant acid produced by fermentation of glucose or cellulose. The anode was...(complete article here).
Efficient hydrogen production is key to its acceptance and broader use as a fuel.
NASA Sees Arctic Ocean Circulation Do an About-Face
November 13, 2007
PASADENA, Calif. – A team of NASA and university scientists has detected an ongoing reversal in Arctic Ocean circulation triggered by atmospheric circulation changes that vary on decade-long time scales. The results suggest not all the large changes seen in Arctic climate in recent years are a result of long-term trends associated with global warming.
The team, led by James Morison of the University of Washington's Polar Science Center Applied Physics Laboratory, Seattle, used data from an Earth-observing satellite and from deep-sea pressure gauges to monitor Arctic Ocean circulation from 2002 to 2006. They measured changes in the weight of...(complete article here).
I suspect that we will see more and more reports of similar nature over the coming years.
Hunting is big dollars to the economy. It is also the source of a huge portion of the dollars spent for conservation efforts throughout the country each year. According to National Geographic (Nov. 2007), 75% of the revenue to state wildlife agencies comes through hunting and fishing license fees ($1.22 billion in the most recently reported figures) and excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment and motorboat fuels ($616 million).
At the federal level, $24 million was spent on Duck stamps which are required of waterfowl hunters age 16 and older. Another $280 million was contributed during 2006, to organizations devoted to the conservation of game species such as Ducks Unlimited, National Wild Turkey Federation, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Pheasants Forever, and others.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Survey of 2001 indicated that the economic impact of waterfowl hunting in the U.S. was in excess of $2.3 billion in that year alone. Texas accounted for approximately $206 million of that impact.
When we look at the opportunities to farmers and ranchers in the Panhandle region for capitalizing on such expenditures, we need to look beyond our Conservation Reserve Program acreage to our playa lakes. Playas offer a unique opportunity to provide oases of habitat for wildlife. Because of the seasonal nature of their water levels, many farmers have seen them as additional, although unreliable, crop acres. Perhaps it would be better to view them as wildlife revenue opportunities.
Restoration of playa lake environments to their natural flora will increase opportunities for hunting. During the seasonal waterfowl migrations, playas often offer the only available water source for “safe harbor” to ducks and geese passing through the area. Given the enthusiastic devotion of most waterfowl hunters, lease revenue for waterfowl hunting could generate significant income.
In addition to waterfowl, the water contained in playas is a source of sustenance for other types of wildlife. Dove, pheasant and quail are attracted to the water from nearby grain fields. With the planting of cover and food species of plants, the playa environment offers a reservoir of habitat for many game species. Lease revenue could be expanded to include many different species so that revenue could be generated from dove season which begins in September through the end of quail season which often extends into February.
There is also a growing population of non-hunting wildlife enthusiasts who are willing to pay for viewing experiences. During the non-hunting seasons or even during the fall if access is closely controlled, there is potential revenue from providing viewing opportunities to interested individuals. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in 1991, approximately 30% of expenditures on wildlife were on viewing and photography. In that year, the estimated amount spent on viewing and photography was $18.1 billion. The number has increased dramatically since that time. Based on that percentage, the figure for 2006 would be around $36 billion nationally.
When the land owner considers the programs available to help restore wetlands/playa habitat, the incentive for looking at wildlife as a crop increases. The Playa Lakes Joint Venture organization (www.pljv.org) is a great resource for information regarding benefits of playa restoration as well as programs available for financial incentives.
Hunting is not only a great source of revenue to farmers and ranchers, it is a great way for families to participate in healthy outdoor activities. There is a special bond created from shared hunting experiences and it is not just for men and boys anymore. One of the fastest growing segments of the hunting population is women and girls.
Playa restoration is something that every landowner should consider; not only for the economic value, but for the opportunity to strengthen families and to improve our environment as well.
Bioenergy growth must be carefully managed
Global Bioenergy Partnership publishes report on bioenergy in G8 plus five countries
13 November 2007, Rome - Capturing the full potential of biofuels means overcoming environmental and social constraints and removing trade barriers, which are hindering the development of a worldwide market, according to a new report released by the Global Bioenergy Parnership (GBEP).
Potential conflicts between bioenergy production and the protection of the environment, sustainable development, food security of the rural poor and the economic development of countries supplying feedstock should be...(complete article here).
The article indicates the FAO sees 20% of world energy needs being supplied by bioenergy by 2030 and 30-40% by 2060. That will take a lot of acres -- a lot of biomass. I wonder what the consequence of continually removing that much biomass from the soil will do to sustainability?
Sowing the seeds of farming's future
Global food stocks are running low and rich nations should not take security of supplies for granted, argues Les Firbank. In this week's Green Room, he outlines his vision for sustainable farming amid the uncertainties we face in the 21st Century.
In the last 12 months, the price of wheat has doubled, and all of a sudden, talk of food security is back on the agenda.
Global food stocks are running low.
There are three main reasons:
- increasing use of crops for bio-energy, especially in the US
- increasing demand for meat and milk products in the developing world (livestock are often fed grain and seeds, even if for only part of the year)
- poor harvests around the world following droughts and floods
We are already seeing changes to farming. In Europe, the set-aside programme, a way of managing food surpluses by paying farmers not to grow crops, will no longer apply.
This alone will...(complete article here).
Agriculture is definitely changing. The growth of Third World economies will increase the funds available for higher quality and further processed food. Better nutrition will fuel population growth. The demands on the world food supply will continue to increase. Less land available for farming and more people to feed will create new challenges.
Monday, November 12, 2007
China Signals Rejection of Emission Caps
By JOE McDONALD Associated Press Writer
BEIJING (AP) -- A Chinese official gave the clearest sign yet that Beijing will reject binding caps on greenhouse gas emissions at a global meeting next month, saying Friday developing countries must be allowed to raise emissions to fight poverty.
"Climate change is caused mainly by developed countries," Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui said. "They should have the main responsibility for climate change and to reduce emissions."
Beijing is about to overtake the United States as...(complete article here).
Turning plastic bags into steel
THAT growing pile of plastic bags under the kitchen sink could be used to recycle steel, thanks to some clever Australian technology.
Steel-maker OneSteel has...(complete article here).
New 'Raider Amethyst' Prairie Verbena: Conserves Water, Drought-tolerant
ScienceDaily (Nov. 12, 2007) — Prairie verbena, a common wildflower, grows from the Mississippi River to Arizona and from Southern Mexico to South Dakota. This beautiful native plant can be seen covering large areas of plains, prairies, pastures, and roadsides, often from March through October.
Working to create a new drought-resistant and water-saving wildflower, scientists at Texas Tech University's Department of Plant and Soil Science have introduced...(complete article here).
My only question is -- if it is being grown from a cultivar -- being domesticated -- how can it still be called a wildflower?
Fresh case of bird flu in turkeys
About 5,000 birds are being slaughtered after avian flu was confirmed in turkeys on a Suffolk farm, government officials have announced.
The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said the H5 strain was found in turkeys near...(complete article here).
Fishing for compliments
Nov 12th 2007
Why catching fewer fish means catching more fish
EVERY story about overfishing tends to involve the same dramatis personae. There are the heroic conservationists urging restraint, the dithering politicians who must balance the needs of their many constituents, and the outlaws...(complete article here).
It is a little more difficult to enforce regulations in the global oceans. However, if it could be accomplished, the dangers to our fisheries would be greatly reduced.
Climate scepticism: The top 10
What are some of the reasons why "climate sceptics" dispute the evidence that human activities such as industrial emissions of greenhouse gases and deforestation are bringing potentially dangerous changes to the Earth's climate?
As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) finalises its landmark report for 2007, we look at 10 of the arguments most often made against the IPCC consensus, and some of the counter-arguments made by scientists who agree with the IPCC.
(complete article and Top 10 here)
New conservation network set up to protect wetlands in China
09 Nov 2007Beijing, China – A new wetland conservation network has been established along the central and lower Yangtze River, providing a platform for management organizations, research institutions, social groups and the public to protect wetlands and battle climate change.
Wetlands are critical to mitigating...(complete article here).
Wetlands are an important buffer for many reasons -- especially in coastal areas.
Friday, November 9, 2007
Worst Drought in a Century Hurting Australian Farmers
for National Geographic News
November 8, 2007
November on Rod Chalmers' farm in Wakool, Australia, shouldn't look like this.
It's springtime, and the wheat fields should be green and waist-high instead of mostly dead.
There are no sheep are in sight either. The animals were sold long ago, because there is no grass for them to graze on.
Chalmers is among many farmers whose crops are withering in an unusual spring heat, following one of the warmest and driest winters on record.
In the seventh year of a crippling drought, much of Australia is in an unprecedented water crisis. The Big Dry, as...(complete article here).
Thursday, November 8, 2007
Nov 7th 2007
THE rich world generously subsidises its farmers. Between 2004 and 2006, OECD countries spent an average...(article here).
Farm subsidies are necessary for national security and for cheap food policies.
America Recycles Day, November 15, 2007
In 2005, the United States produced almost 240 million tons of municipal solid waste, approximately 4 ½ pounds of waste per person per day. Most of this material is recyclable. Recycling benefits the environment at every stage in the life cycle of a consumer product, from the raw material used to make the product, to the final method of disposal. Environmental benefits of recycling include:
Conserving energy and natural resources;
Providing feedstock for key domestic industries;
Reducing air and water pollution; and
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
By using our resources wisely, we strengthen...(complete article here).
Fueling Bolivia's crisis?
By Lola Almudevar
Santa Cruz, Bolivia
In the midday heat, truckers hang out of the windows of their trucks or sit slumped behind their wheels, waiting.
They may have to queue for hours to fill their tanks with diesel at this petrol station in the city of Santa Cruz, eastern Bolivia.
"Sometimes you get to the front of the queue and the diesel has already run out," says Agapito Serviche from his pick-up truck.
"The diesel does not last long enough for a day's work, so I have to stop working and come back to the queue just to put food on the table."
Santa Cruz, which is home to large scale commercial agriculture, has been...(complete article here).
World Energy Outlook Sounds The Alarm
Oxford Analytica 11.08.07, 6:00 AM ET
The International Energy Agency's World Energy Outlook 2007 paints an alarming picture of the future of global warming and energy security, reporting that the world's energy needs will increase by over 50% by 2030.
Energy demand, imports, coal use and greenhouse gas emissions have all increased since last year's accounting.
Fossil fuels will continue to dominate the fuel mix, accounting for 84% of the projected overall demand increase from 2005 to 2030. The agency expects the following developments in the global market:
--Energy-related carbon dioxide emissions will rise.
--Oil demand will reach 116 million barrels per day by 2030, up 32 million from 2006.
--Coal will see the largest usage increase in absolute terms, rising 73% in the 25-year period, with its share of total energy demand growing from 25% to 28%.
--Electricity use will double, with its share of final energy consumption rising from 17% to 22%.
To accommodate this expansion...(complete article here).
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
November 07, 2007
Interior Department Moves Forward on Offshore Renewable Energy
The U.S. Department of Interior released its Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for alternative energy and other alternative uses of the outer continental shelf (OCS) on November 6th. The Interior Department's Minerals Management Service (MMS) has oversight for any renewable energy developments on the OCS, and the final programmatic EIS examines the potential environmental effects of alternative uses on the OCS over the next 5 to 7 years—including offshore wind power and wave and tidal energy projects—and identifies policies...(complete article here).
China 'to be largest energy user'
China is set to become the world's largest consumer of energy by about 2010, according to a study by the International Energy Agency (IEA).
The World Energy Outlook report predicts that China will overtake the US in its energy use.
Demand for energy in China is expected to have doubled within 20 years, according to the report.
But this will come at a price, with China also on course to become the world's largest polluter, says...(complete article here).
China worries me.
FAO forecasts continued high cereal prices
Unfavourable weather, low stocks, tight supplies amid strong demand cited as causes
7 November 2007, London/Rome - Global cereal prices are expected to remain at high levels for the coming year due largely to problems in production in several major exporting countries and very low world stocks, warns the latest Food Outlook report issued today by FAO in London.
FAO expects many countries will pay...(complete article here).
Sowing the seeds of uncertainty
Jonathon Porritt Founder director of Forum for the Future
There has always been a problem about the way in which big environmental issues are handled by the media.
Causes once "in fashion" suddenly become invisible; other causes suddenly become all the rage. Today, it's all climate change; if it isn't climate change - from a media point-of-view - just don't bother.
Two weeks ago, for instance, the United Nations Environment Programme (Unep) published its Global Environmental Outlook - a quite devastating audit of the state of the Earth, its habitats, species and resources.
A quarter of the world's flowering plants, for instance, are now threatened with extinction over the next 50 years. There was some reasonable coverage on the day itself (especially in the Independent), but then silence. Environment going to hell in a handcart - heard it all before; so what? Or words to that effect.
Save our seeds
The number of people out there today seriously worried about the health of all the plants and seeds on which modern agriculture depends must...(complete article here).
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
November 6, 2007
Secretary Bodman Touts Importance of Cellulosic Ethanol at Georgia Biorefinery Groundbreaking
SOPERTON, GA - U.S. Secretary of Energy Samuel W. Bodman today attended a groundbreaking ceremony for Range Fuels' biorefinery - one of the nation’s first commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol biorefineries – and made the following statement.
“Together, the Department of Energy and private sector pioneers, such as Range Fuels, are blending science and technology to advance the President's goal of reducing our dependence on foreign oil,” U.S. Secretary of Energy Samuel W. Bodman said. “The production of cost-competitive cellulosic ethanol is a significant part of...(complete press release here).
Analysis: Chinese arms and African oil
by Andrei Chang
Hong Kong (UPI) Nov 5, 2007
China has been promoting arms-for-oil deals with Africa as the continent is becoming one of its major sources of oil. Since last year, top Chinese leaders and military officers have made frequent visits to Africa. And at the Zhuhai Air Show under way this week in southern China's Guangdong province, military delegations from African countries including Sudan, Angola and Zimbabwe have made frequent appearances.
In 2005, Angola exported to China nearly 17.5 million tons of crude oil, becoming China's second largest oil supplier after Saudi Arabia. Oil from Angola makes up nearly 14 percent of China's annual oil imports, valued at $6.58 billion. In the months of January and February last year, Angola surpassed Saudi Arabia to become China's largest supplier of crude oil, providing 456,000 barrels per day.
China's influence in Angola is becoming increasingly noticeable. The...(complete article here).
Bills pave way for nuclear power
Energy, planning and climate change bills in the Queen's Speech pave the way for new UK nuclear power stations.
The plans, part of Gordon Brown's first programme as PM, are said to be aimed at cutting carbon emissions and getting the best energy mix for the UK.
It would be for the private sector to initiate, fund, construct and operate new nuclear plants and...(complete article here).
Friday, November 2, 2007
The real story here is that hunting is NOT detrimental to the fox population. It might even reduce the number of road kills. Do you think a bunch of sensitive do-gooders from London would rather see a fox "highway pizza" or a bunch of beautiful horses leaping over fences as the hunters blow their horns and the dogs chase the fox? I vote for the latter. In fact, I'd like to try the latter.
Conservation is the wise use of our natural resources in a sustainable manner. It looks to me that moderate hunting pressure on the fox population of England is certainly sustainable.
Fox Hunting's Supposed Benefits Dismissed
By HENRY FOUNTAIN
Published: October 8, 2002
In the debate over fox hunting in Britain, there is plenty of emotion to go around. Opponents argue that unleashing a pack of hounds to pursue and kill a fox is the height of cruelty.
Supporters, including the 400,000 who protested parliamentary proposals to ban hunts by marching in London late last month, say that nothing less than the future of the British countryside is at stake.
But there are more scientific issues as well. For instance, aside from its role as sport, there is the question of whether hunting with hounds is an effective means of controlling foxes and reducing attacks on farm animals.
Now, a study by a longtime fox researcher and colleagues suggests that it is not. The researcher, Dr. Stephen Harris of the University of Bristol, found that a ban on hunting, instituted for 10 months during the foot-and-mouth epidemic in 2001, had no effect on the fox population.
''Statistically there was no difference from previous years,'' Dr. Harris said. ''If anything, the trend was slightly downward.''
The results, reported in the Sept. 5 issue of Nature, contradict assertions by pro-hunting groups that fox numbers had...(complete article here).
CSREES Research Results
Scientists Sequence a Cereal Killer
Media Contact:Jennifer Martin (202) 720-8188
November 2, 2007 By Stacy Kish
Important cereal crops, such as wheat and barley, are susceptible to a fungus, called Fusarium graminearum that is responsible for head blight disease. Researchers recently sequenced and annotated the genome of this fungus, shedding light on how it is able to survive in rapidly changing environments. The new knowledge could lead to new ways to combat the harmful pathogen, which has caused more than $10 billion in crop losses over the past 10 years.
USDA scientist H. Corby Kistler, along with Christina Cuomo of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and colleagues at a consortium of universities and labs around the world, used a whole genome shotgun approach, a faster approach that involves shredding and replicating the genome in order to sequence the Fusarium graminearum genome, bypassing the need for a physical map. The scientists found very few repetitive sequences in the genome. Instead, they discovered that most mutations occur at...(complete article here).
Ethanol has been around since the first “moonshiner” discovered how to distill corn into whiskey. It is the same thing as 200 proof whiskey. It was used by Henry Ford to power some of the first Model T’s. Today it is fueling a euphoric corn market that has seen prices soar above $3.50/bushel. It has also sent turmoil through the livestock markets as feeders adjust to the realities of higher commodity prices.
The USDA estimates that ethanol yields about 25% more energy than is required to produce it. Most of the energy gain is in the form of co-products available for feed. If you measure the energy equivalence of the ethanol itself, it takes about as much energy to produce it as it yields. One gallon of ethanol contains about 2/3 of the energy of a gallon of gasoline. This means that if your vehicle achieved 30 mpg with gasoline, it would achieve only 20 mpg burning pure ethanol.
Ethanol co-products make excellent cattle feed for inclusion in feedlot rations. Some studies indicate that Wet Distiller’s Grains contain 100-112% of the value of dry rolled corn. Dry Distiller’s Grains however are only about 88% of the feed value of dry rolled corn. In the larger feedlots that primarily utilize steam-flaked corn, the comparative feed value is much lower. That is why the cost of the co-products will be one of the primary determining factors driving its use as a substitution for feeding corn in livestock rations.
One of the most controversial issues surrounding the production of ethanol from corn revolves around concerns over the impact to food prices. Most of the corn produced in the United States is utilized as animal feed. Rising corn prices have already had a significant impact on the cost of feeding livestock.
Most planting decisions are at least somewhat based on relative commodity prices of various crops that are feasible for planting in a particular area. In areas where corn is a viable alternative, significant crop acreage is being shifted to corn production at the expense of other crops. The effect is to lift commodity prices for all crops that are being replaced by corn production. Again, the primary impact will be on crops that are destined for animal feed, such as soybeans and other grains.
As ethanol production capacity increases, the pressure on substituting ethanol fuel crops for other commodities will increase. The result will certainly be upward pressure on the prices of food crops due to the scarcity impact on supply and demand.
Should we be concerned? The U.S. consumer pays a smaller percentage of his income for food (less than 10%) than consumers in any other part of the world (20 – 50% for middle income countries). In countries that struggle at a subsistence level of farming, there will be pressure to divert land utilization for ethanol fuel production. The impact on such economies will depend on government policies related to land ownership and control of production. In some instances, it could help to lift economies above subsistence level by creating the opportunity for higher revenue crops.
Ethanol is only a tiny piece of the energy puzzle. It is a tiny piece that is creating turmoil across the globe in the agricultural sector. Turmoil generally creates opportunities for some and failure for those who do not adapt to changes in the marketplace. It is hoped that new technologies for producing ethanol from plant fibers rather than highly concentrated energy sources such as corn will transform ethanol production in the near future. In the meantime, we can expect commodity prices to remain high which will hopefully be a boon to our rural economy.