Environment

  • Renewable fuel standard: mend it, don’t end it

    Congress should minimally modify — and not, as petroleum-related interests have increasingly lobbied for, repeal — the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), the most comprehensive renewable energy policy in the United States, according to a new paper. The paper argues that RFS mandates merely ought to be adjusted to reflect current and predicted biofuel commercialization realities.

  • Sea power: extracting energy from ocean waves

    As sources of renewable energy, sun and wind have one major disadvantage: it is not always sunny or windy. Waves in the ocean, on the other hand, are never still. Researchers are now aiming to use waves to produce energy by making use of contact electrification between a patterned plastic nanoarray and water.

  • Long-term trend of saltwater intrusion in the Everglades confirmed

    Mangroves love salt water, while sawgrass depends on fresh water. Satellite imagery over the southeastern Everglades confirms long-term trends of mangrove expansion and sawgrass habitat loss near the shore. The trend is related to salt water intrusion caused by sea-level rise and water management practices. Changes in water management, such as the implementation of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, may help offset the possible effects caused by future salt water intrusion, but restoration may not suffice if sea-level rise accelerates.

  • N.J. coastal wetlands moderated some of Hurricane Sandy’s fury

    Monitoring sensors along the New Jersey coast recorded marsh and wetland swelling during Hurricane Sandy. That swelling is an indication of marshes’ ability to absorb some of the storm surge — which, in hard-hit urban areas, had resulted in high water marks up to seven feet during Hurricane Sandy. Resilient, healthy wetlands near coastal areas have a key role in protecting local communities from hurricane-induced storm surges and flooding.

  • Policies governing rural land use can curb wildfire risks – up to a point

    Using Montana’s fast-growing Flathead County as a template, researchers hves found that moderately restrictive land-use policies can significantly curb the potential damage of rural wildfires. Highly restrictive planning laws, however, will not do much more.

  • First ever evidence discovered of a comet striking Earth

    The first ever evidence of a comet entering Earth’s atmosphere and exploding, raining down a shock wave of fire which obliterated every life form in its path, has been discovered. The comet entered Earth’s atmosphere above Egypt about twenty-eight million years ago. As it entered the atmosphere, it exploded, heating up the sand beneath it to a temperature of about 2,000 degrees Celsius, and resulting in the formation of a huge amount of yellow silica glass which lies scattered over a 6,000 square kilometer area in the Sahara.

  • Bolstering water security in a crowded world

    With limited water and the increasing number of people depending on it – there will be more than nine billion people on the planet by 2050 — water security is tenuous. Integrated water management plans using “blue,” “green,” and “gray” water, however, can increase water security by allowing agriculture to rise to the challenge of feeding a growing world population while leaving enough water for other uses.

  • Delaware prepares for sea-level rise

    Benjamin Franklin said that that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and Governor Jack Markell of Delaware agrees. Two weeks ago he unveiled an initiative aiming to prepare his state for the effects of climate change and sea-level rise. Markell has signed an executive order requiring all state agencies to take sea-level rise into account when designing and locating state projects. The order also requires development of strategies to make state facilities and operations better prepared to deal with climate change and sea-level rise.

  • Radioactive shale gas contaminants seep into a Pennsylvania creek

    Researchers examined the quality of shale gas wastewater from hydraulic fracturing and the stream water above and below the disposal site in western Pennsylvania. Elevated levels of radioactivity, salts, and metals have been found in river water and sediments at a site where treated water from oil and gas operations is discharged into a creek.

  • Making clean drinking water universally available “achievable”

    More than 780 million people around the world still do not have safe and reliable drinking water. The problem of providing clean water is most acute in developing countries, particularly in Africa, where creaking infrastructures struggle to keep pace with fast-growing urban populations; in rural areas, millions of water pumps stand unused waiting to be repaired.

  • Arbor Day meets Kyoto: Tree planting promotes carbon capture, green neighborhoods

    Schemes which offer economic incentives for growing trees for carbon present an opportunity to reverse trends in land clearing but also to restore ecosystem services — such as pest control, pollination, soil and water conservation. Best practice carbon farming that considers more than just the carbon in trees is thus needed if the full benefits of trees in the landscape are to be realized by farmers, landholders, and the community.

  • U.S. to face an increased risk of severe thunderstorms

    Severe thunderstorms, often exhibiting destructive rainfall, hail and tornadoes, are one of the primary causes of catastrophic losses in the United States. In 2012, eleven weather disasters in the United States crossed the billion-dollar threshold in economic losses. Seven of those events were related to severe thunderstorms. New climate analyses indicate that global warming is likely to cause a robust increase in the conditions that produce these types of storms across much of the country over the next century.

  • Calculating emissions, costs of increased wind, solar in the West

    New research quantifies the potential impacts of increasing wind and solar power generation on the operators of fossil-fueled power plants in the West. To accommodate higher amounts of wind and solar power on the electric grid, utilities must ramp down and ramp up or stop and start conventional generators more frequently to provide reliable power for their customers — a practice called cycling.

  • “In 30 years Iran will be a ghost town” if the country’s water situation does not improve

    Issa Kalantari, a former agriculture minister during the presidency of Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani and currently and advisor to President Hassan Rouhani’s cabinet, says Iran’s water crisis was especially grave. “Our main problem that threatens us, that is more dangerous than Israel, America or political fighting, is the issue of living in Iran. It is that the Iranian plateau is becoming uninhabitable”; “If this situation is not reformed, in 30 years Iran will be a ghost town.”

  • Missed opportunities to save water, energy

    Water and wastewater managers are missing substantial opportunities to save energy and money, according to a new report.The report also identifies significant gaps in knowledge about the amount of water used to extract energy resources such as natural gas, oil, and coal, and to generate electricity.