• Missouri levee blast floods 130,000 acres, but saves Illinois city

    On Tuesday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers blasted a section of a levee along the Mississippi River to create a controlled breach that would relieve pressure and prevent the town of Cairo, Illinois from becoming engulfed in record flood levels; the blast created a gap more than 10,000 feet wide at Birds Point, Missouri levees and inundated more than 130,000 acres of farmland; heavy rains have left the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers swollen, putting Cairo and its 3,000 residents at great risk as it sits on a narrow stretch of land between the two surging rivers; on Monday, the Corps received permission from the federal government to go ahead with its plan, despite Missouri’s protests

  • What past rises of sea levels tell us about future rises

    During a period of high atmospheric carbon dioxide levels three million years ago — the mid-Pliocene climate optimum — sea levels were anywhere between 15 and 100 feet higher than at present because water that is now locked up in glaciers as ice circulated freely through the oceans; by understanding the extent of sea level rise three million years ago, scientists hope more accurately to predict just how high the seas will rise in the coming decades and centuries due to global warming

  • U.S. infrastructure lagging far behind Europe

    America’s transportation infrastructure is quickly falling behind the rest of the world as roads continue to fall into disrepair, railroad lines age, and airports become more congested resulting in longer commute times, more delays, and increasing transportation-related fatalities; the United States now ranks twenty-third overall for infrastructure quality between Spain and Chile; government expenditures on infrastructure have fallen to just 2.4 percent of GDP; in contrast Europe invests 5 percent of its GDP on infrastructure and China 9 percent; U.S. infrastructure investment has fallen behind largely as a result of the highway trust fund’s declining revenues, which are generated from gas and vehicle taxes

  • California roads to generate renewable energy

    California lawmakers recently passed a bill for a pilot program that would turn road vibrations into energy; the bill proposes using a process called piezoelectric generation that captures energy from cars, trains, or people as they move across surfaces and create vibrations; these vibrations are then harnessed and converted into energy by piezoelectric materials that would be buried beneath the road’s surface; a .6 single lane road can prove as much as forty-four megawatts of energy each year, which is enough to light up more than 30,000 homes

  • Solving nuclear fuel storage problem more crucial than ever: MIT report

    The Japan nuclear crisis adds to the urgency of dealing with radioactive used fuel, and may raise cost of new plants, MIT Energy Initiative study says; the report recommends that an interim solution be developed to remove spent fuel storage facilities at reactor sites, and move to regional, medium-term repositories where the fuel can be monitored and protected as it decays over time

  • Study finds natural gas releases twice as much greenhouse gas as coal

    A new study shows that natural gas is not as environmentally friendly as previously thought, dealing a major blow to environmentalists who viewed it as a “bridge fuel” to cleaner energy alternatives; researchers found that the greenhouse-gas footprint of shale gas over a twenty year period was at least 20 percent higher than coal and could even be “more than twice as great”; the study was quick to draw criticism from oil and gas companies for its use of shoddy data; the study also outlines multiple ways that the oil and gas companies could reduce methane emissions by up to 90 percent during the drilling process

  • West Texas towns face impending water shortage

    West Texas is facing a dire drought that has local officials scrambling to find additional sources of water for thirsty residents; since last October, West Texas has only seen about one-tenth of an inch of rain, and now two of the three reservoirs that cities in the Permian Basin depend upon are nearly empty; the third reservoir is 30 percent below capacity; without significant rain soon, all three reservoirs will be dry by January 2013; residents have been restricted to only three days of outdoor watering; the region faces limited options for additional sources of water and plans will be expensive to implement

  • California school building regulators had ties with anti-regulation lobby group

    A California watchdog group recently revealed that state officials in charge of enforcing earthquake standards for school buildings have had a long and questionable relationship with a lobbying group that actively works to oppose building safety regulations in public schools; senior officials with the Division of the State Architect had been dues paying members of the Coalition for Adequate School Housing, which actively lobbies for less regulation on school construction; in 1997, state regulators were told that taxpayers would reimburse their membership dues to be a part of the lobbying group; officials maintain that there has been no corruption; in 2010 a major regulatory provision in place since 1933 was removed

  • Fears over nuclear energy stall Kentucky nuclear plans

    Days before the 11 March earthquake and tsunami struck Japan causing its ongoing nuclear crisis, a bill that would have eased restrictions on the construction of a nuclear power plant in Kentucky failed to pass the state legislature dashing the hopes of atomic energy advocates; the proposed site currently houses a uranium enrichment facility, but it is expected to be shut down in the near future leaving 1,200 people out of work; safety advocates are concerned because the site is located near the New Madrid seismic zone; Kentucky generates 90 percent of its power from coal, and Governor Beshear proposed in 2008 to use nuclear power to generate 30 percent of the state’s energy by 2030

  • Intrusion detection company joins chemical society

    The growing attention to chemical plants safety leads perimeter security companies to show even more interest in that sector; Senstar, a manufacturer of perimeter intrusion detection technology, joins the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates

  • New guide explains perimeter protection options

    A new guide explains the subject of perimeter protection clearly and concisely to enable specifiers, facilities managers, security managers, and consultants to identify the optimum security measures for particular premises and threats; it covers not only high-security fencing, barriers, and gates, but also electric pulse systems and associated security measures such as access controls, CCTV, and intrusion detection systems

  • U.K. struggles to reduce water usage as supplies dwindle

    An uncharacteristically warm and dry spring in the United Kingdom has forced water companies to begin conserving water, but a recent survey indicates that the method currently employed is widely unpopular and grossly affects low income families; some reservoirs are 20 percent below normal levels and eleven rivers are at their lowest in twenty years; in 1989 the British government mandated that all new homes have water meters installed and introduced a usage plan which charges households based on the amount of water they consume; the plan has proven effective in reducing water usage, but costs have increased by more than 50 percent

  • Iran's control systems attacked by another virus

    Iran admitted it has been attacked by another virus aiming to disrupt its industrial control systems; the commander of Iran civil defense said, though, that the virus has been caught in time and neutralized by Iran’s “young experts”; Gholamreza Jalali described the virus as “congruous and harmonious with the (computer) system and in the initial phase it does minor damage and might be mistaken for some executive files of government organizations”; in the summer, nearly 42,000 computers and servers in Iran’s industrial control systems — many of them in Iran’s nuclear weapons program — were infected; the damage to uranium enrichment centrifuges was especially great, causing Iran in mid-November to halt enrichment operations; Stuxnet has also infected the Bushehr nuclear reactor; the reactor was supposed to come on line in August, but it is still not operational, and has missed several start-up deadlines

  • PG&E send safety information to customers living near gas pipelines

    PG&E begins notifying customers of gas transmission pipeline locations and highlights actions the company is taking to make natural gas transmission lines safer; the letter safety brochures is being to 2.5 million homeowners and businesses located within about 2,000 feet of a natural gas transmission pipeline