Environment

  • Uranium mining debate divides Virginia

    In Virginia a fight has begun over whether to drill for uranium. Some feel the drilling, which would create about 1,000 jobs and bounty of tax revenue in addition to nuclear fuel, is important for a state whose main industries, such as tobacco and textiles, are failing. Those who oppose the drilling fear the contamination of drinking water in case of an accident, and a stigma from uranium which would deter people and businesses from moving to the area.

  • Keystone pipeline clears another hurdle as Nebraska governor approves project

    On Tuesday, Nebraska governor Dave Heineman notified President Obama that he approved the controversial Keystone XL pipeline to go through the state. This marks a significant step forward in the project, which was delayed by the administration last year.

  • South African study highlights African fuelwood crisis

    Researchers have found that at current consumption levels in the communal areas of Lowveld, South Africa, reserves of fuelwood could be totally exhausted within thirteen years. The consequences are significant, with around half of the 2.4 million rural households in the country using wood as their primary fuel source, burning between four and seven million tons per year.

  • Fracking generates less wastewater per unit of gas, but more overall

    Hydraulically fractured natural gas wells are producing less wastewater per unit of gas recovered than conventional wells would. The scale of fracking operations in the Marcellus shale region – which stretches from New York to Virginia and accounts for about 10 percent of all natural gas produced in the United States today — is so vast, however, that the wastewater it produces threatens to overwhelm the region’s wastewater disposal capacity.

  • Large amounts of antibacterial agent used in soaps found in freshwater lakes

    When people wash their hands with antibacterial soap, most do not think about where the chemicals contained in that soap end up. A new study determined that the common antibacterial agent, called triclosan, used in soaps and many other products, is found in increasing amounts in several Minnesota freshwater lakes.

  • DOE addresses rare earth, critical materials shortage

    The U.S. Department of Energy announced earlier this month that a team led by Ames Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, has been selected for an award of up to $120 million over five years to establish an Energy Innovation Hub which will develop solutions to the domestic shortages of rare earth metals and other materials critical for U.S. energy security.

  • Thorium holds promise of safer, cleaner nuclear power

    Thorium as nuclear fuels has drawbacks, but its main advantage includes generating far less toxic residue. The majority of the mineral is used during the fission process, and it can burn existing stockpiles of plutonium and hazardous waste, saving the need to transport it and bury the waste in concrete. If thorium becomes available as a source of energy in the future, the world will rely less on coal and gas, and wind turbines will become a thing of the past. The risk of a global energy crunch will decrease considerably.

  • Black carbon’s contribution to climate change underestimated

    Black carbon is the second largest man-made contributor to global warming and its influence on climate has been greatly underestimated, according to the first quantitative and comprehensive analysis of this issue; black carbon is believed to have a warming effect of about 1.1 Watts per square meter (W/m²), approximately two thirds of the effect of the largest man made contributor to global warming, carbon dioxide.

  • Black carbon’s contribution to climate change underestimated

    Black carbon is the second largest man-made contributor to global warming and its influence on climate has been greatly underestimated, according to the first quantitative and comprehensive analysis of this issue; black carbon is believed to have a warming effect of about 1.1 Watts per square meter (W/m²), approximately two thirds of the effect of the largest man made contributor to global warming, carbon dioxide.

  • NASA: 2012 sustained long-term climate warming trend

    NASA scientists say 2012 was the ninth warmest of any year since 1880, continuing a long-term trend of rising global temperatures. With the exception of 1998, the nine warmest years in the 132-year record all have occurred since 2000, with 2010 and 2005 ranking as the hottest years on record. Scientists emphasize that weather patterns always will cause fluctuations in average temperature from year to year, but the continued increase in greenhouse gas levels in Earth’s atmosphere assures a long-term rise in global temperatures. Each successive year will not necessarily be warmer than the year before, but on the current course of greenhouse gas increases, scientists expect each successive decade to be warmer than the previous decade.

  • Global demand for food and energy is growing, and so does land and water “grabbing”

    As world food and energy demands grow, nations and some corporations increasingly are looking to acquire quality agricultural land for food production. Some nations are gaining land by buying up property — and accompanying water resources — in other, generally less wealthy countries.

  • Better screening for bacteria for safer food

    There are around 5.4 million cases of food-borne gastroenteritis in Australia every year. Of these cases, it is estimated that around 200,000 are associated with the bacteria Campylobacter jejuni and Campylobacter coli. Chicken meat and other foods will be able to be screened for bacteria even faster and more effectively than ever, thanks to breakthrough nanobiotechnology research.

  • Global warming threatens U.K. diet

    The number of days with temperatures over 32 degrees C has more than doubled in some parts of France over the last fifty years. Many other land areas show similar increases. By the 2020s, temperatures over 32 degrees C could occur over large areas of France where previously they were uncommon. Maize yields are reduced significantly for each day with temperatures over around 32 degrees Celsius. The United Kingdom imports more maize from France than anywhere else in the world, and declining crop yields in France mean that U.K. consumers will have to pay more for maize-based foods, or change their diets.

  • Drought, heat turn hundreds of U.S. counties into disaster areas

    The U.S. Agriculture Department (USDA) last week said that drought conditions and heat necessitated designating 597 counties in fourteen states as primary natural disaster areas. The affected counties have suffered severe drought for eight consecutive weeks, which qualified them for the automatic designation. 2012 had been the hottest year on record for the continental United States: the year’s average temperature of 55.3 degrees Fahrenheit across the Lower 48, which was more than 3.2 degrees warmer than the average for the twentieth century.

  • Tiny helpers: Atom-thick flakes help clean up radioactive waste, fracking sites

    Graphene oxide has a remarkable ability quickly to remove radioactive material from contaminated water. Researchers determined that microscopic, atom-thick flakes of graphene oxide bind quickly to natural and human-made radionuclides and condense them into solids. The discovery could be a boon in the cleanup of contaminated sites like the Fukushima nuclear plants, and it could also cut the cost of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) for oil and gas recovery and help reboot American mining of rare earth metals.