Green and Growing...

It’s Sunday. Time for a tomato update! Okay, this was last week:

 

And here's today:

 
 

Everyday there’s a new sprout!

Green-News: Friday 8.29.08

The plant will begin converting its body shop in November when the tooling and equipment specific to the Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator will be disassembled and transferred to Kentucky Truck Plant [...] in the interim, 1,000 employees will be transferred next door to Wayne Assembly Plant where a third crew will be added in January to accommodate increased production of the hot-selling Ford Focus."

Small Vehicles at Michigan Plant: Only in 2010
Retooling a manufacturing plant of that size isn't easy or quick, so the C-class vehicles will only start production in 2010. If Ford had been a bit faster to react and had make the change a few years ago, it would already have these vehicles now that demand is higher than supply in many areas.

  • Somewhere in the Pacific Ocean floats a TEXAS-SIZED island of plastic—indecomposable plastics containing the toxin Bisphenol A. For more, check out this video documentary on VBS.TV:
Before this trip, I was never all that crazy about the ocean. I’ve always appreciated the fact that it generates the majority of the world’s oxygen and keeps us nice and far from places like Britain, but in terms of any sort of awe or “respect” it just never happened. I would say I looked at it less as the primeval womb of all terrestrial life than as an excessive amount of water you sometimes have to fly over.

Part and parcel with this was my attitude toward the Pacific Garbage Patch, or as we willfully misidentified it for the duration of our journey, the elusive Garbage Island. All the journalism I’d read about the patch had carefully danced around physical descriptions of the trash, leading myself and the rest of the shooting crew to fanciful visions of a solid, Texas-size barge of discarded Coke bottles and sporting goods. The idea that people had managed to f**k up a part of the world that nobody even visits, much less inhabits, and on such a monumental scale struck me as interesting and, to be honest, slightly awesome-sounding, but at the end of the day the impact of the mess on the rest of the world failed to register. I mean, sure, sea birds choking to death on deflated balloons and sea turtles whose shells have been completely deformed by soda can rings—all this definitely sucks, but so do a lot of things, you know?

Both candidates are talking about energy, high prices and global warming, so it's important to look past the rhetoric and see what is at the heart of their plans," said Cathy Duvall, Sierra Club Political Director. "As this scorecard illustrates, the contrast in this election could not be starker. Barack Obama wants to give tax relief and $1,000 energy rebates to working families, while John McCain wants billions more in tax breaks for oil companies making more than $1,000 a second in profits."

Taking on Big Oil-The scorecard contrasts Obama’s pro-consumer plan for middle class tax relief and $1,000 emergency energy rebates paid for by taxing Big Oil’s billions in record profits with McCain’s plan for another $4 billion in tax breaks for Big Oil.

Investing in the Clean Energy Economy-Obama’s $150 billion plan for 5 million new clean energy jobs is contrasted with McCain’s unblemished record of opposition to pro-clean energy policies and refusal to show up and vote for clean energy incentives necessary to save 116,000 existing jobs and $19 billion in new investments and lay the foundation for the clean energy future that will rid us of our dangerous dependence on fossil fuels.

Fixing Global Warming-Barack Obama will do what scientists tell us is necessary and make polluters pay in order to give back hundreds of billions of dollars to consumers in order to bring energy costs back under control. Meanwhile, McCain has proposed an outdated plan that gives away hundreds of billions to polluters.

Green-News: Thursday 8.28.08

There are several organizations that support the sustainable reading movement. To ease your green mind about the books on your shelf right now, there are several organizations like EcoLibris, whose aim is to balance out the tree to book ratio. For every 2 books you volunteer, they plant one tree.

This online community of fellow readers is easy to join and creates a very simple solution to easing the environmental impact of reading. EcoLibris partners with book clubs, publishers, authors, and book stores.

There is a growing online book swapping community for people who want the real thing, and want to contribute to reforestation while stopping the waste cycle. BookMooch is an international online community for exchanging used books. It has more than 500,000 members who exchange books for free, using a simple points system—every time you send someone a book, you earn a point and can get any book you want from anyone else at BookMooch.

  • Hope you like 3-eyed fish! British environmental agencies warn that nuclear waste containers are likely to fail—i.e. become FUBAR—before they can be sealed away underground. Geoffrey Lean of The Independent reports:
The unpublicised report is by the Environment Agency, which has to approve any proposals for getting rid of the waste that remains deadly for tens of thousands of years.

The document effectively destroys Britain's already shaky disposal plans just as ministers are preparing an expansion of nuclear power.

It shows that many containers used to store the waste are made of second-rate materials, are handled carelessly, and are liable to corrode.

The report concludes: "It is cautious to assume a significant proportion will fail." It says computer models suggest up to 40 per cent of them could be at risk.

The coalition filed the charge in cooperation with German beekeepers who claim they lost thousands of hives after poisoning by the Bayer pesticide clothianidin in May.

Since 1991, Bayer has been producing the insecticide imidacloprid, which is one of the best selling insecticides in the world, often used as seed-dressing for maize, sunflower, and rape. Bayer exports imidacloprid to more than 120 countries and the substance is Bayer's best-selling pesticide.

Since patent protection for imidacloprid has expired in most countries, Bayer in 2003 brought a similarly functionning successor product, clothianidin, onto the market, the coalition alleges.

Both substances are systemic chemicals that work their way from the seed through the plant. The substances get into the pollen and the nectar and can damage beneficial insects such as bees.

Green-News: Wednesday 8.27.08

While the concentration of drugs in drinking water tends to be low, some medications, such as hormones, are able to operate potently even at concentrations of one part per billion. To make matters worse, there is evidence that the chlorine commonly used to treat drinking water may make some pharmaceutical chemicals more toxic. Thus, the typical claim that "pharmaceuticals are only present in very low concentrations, and therefore could not be dangerous" holds no water (pardon the pun). Not only are some chemicals potentiated (made more toxic) by other chemicals in the water, but to date, there have been absolutely no studies looking at the increased danger posed by combinations of pharmaceuticals now being found.

In other words, nobody knows the level of risk that may be associated with the chemical cocktail of pharmaceuticals now being found in the water supply. No one can say with any degree of honesty that the drug contamination is safe, meaning that the real risks to human remain entirely unknown.

Biomass Turned Into Gasoline Cheaply
Developed in conjunction with the Texas Engineering Experiment Station, Byogy’s claims its process can convert a wide range of biomass feedstocks directly into “Byolene”, a 95-octane gasoline substitute at a cost of $1.70-2.00 per gallon.

Wide Variety of Feedstocks
Byogy states that the process is designed to run on non-food feedstocks such as garbage, biosolids from wastewater treatment plants, lawn clippings, food waste, and livestock manure, in addition to non-food/feed crops grown for fuel purposes.

Initially, Byogy says it intends to use municipal waste in its first plant, which it hopes to have online with two years. By 2022 Byogy says it hopes Byolene can meet 2% of the nation’s transportation fuel demand, and hopes to build an additional 200 biorefineries to do so.

The SAB meeting will focus on "consultative advice" from the EPA's Environmental Engineering Committee to the Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics (OPPT) "on possible new approaches to measuring results of pollution prevention activities." The OPPT is responsible for oversight of programs falling under the Toxic Substances Control Act and the Pollution Prevention Act. These acts evaluate chemical safety and while "promoting the use of non-toxic or less-toxic substances, implementing conservation techniques, and re-using materials rather than putting them into the waste stream." Programs specifics can be found on the EPA website.

Given the EPA's already legendary foot-dragging on pollution standards, the need for public comment now is greater than ever.If you're in or near Washington, DC and would like to register to speak at the event please note the following: "In general individuals or groups requesting an oral presentation at a public meeting will be limited to five minutes per speaker, with no more than one hour for all speakers. Interested parties should contact Ms. Kathleen White,
Designated Federal Officer, EPA Science Advisory Board at 202.343.9878 or via email at white.kathleen@epa.gov." The Federal Register notes that email contact is preferable.

Green-News: Tuesday 8.26.08

This house in Wales is one that he built for his family so they could all live greener lifestyles closer to nature. And it doesn't just look green on the outside -- it's eco-conscious through and through. Dale built the house completely on his own, with very little experience and just a few buddies to help out here and there. The foundation is made from rocks and mud sourced on site, the interior features skylights and natural branch rafters, the water runs via gravity from a nearby spring, solar panels provide lights at night, it has a compost toilet, and the refrigerator is cooled with air from underground.
The new biopesticide has active compounds that alert plant defenses to combat a range of diseases, including powdery mildew, gray mold and bacterial blight that affect fruits, vegetables, and ornamentals. The product will be available this October for conventional growers, according to Marja Koivunen, Ph.D., director of research and development for Marrone Organic Innovations. A new formulation has also been developed for organic farmers and will be available in 2009.

In one of the presentations by Marrone Organic Innovations (MOI), the progress toward discovery of an "organic Roundup" — the Holy Grail of biopesticide research — an environmentally friendly and natural version of the world's most widely used herbicide was discussed.

Biopesticides are derived from plants, microbes, or other natural materials and are proven to be safer for humans and the environment. The active ingredient in one of the company's first products, GreenMatch EX, came from lemongrass oil, and microorganisms from around the world are studied in the search for novel and effective natural pesticides. Currently, the MOI R&D team is working on an organic rice herbicide based on an extract from a marine microorganism, as well as on insecticides and nematocides to kill insect pests and soil-inhabiting, parasitic roundworms that affect plants and animals.

This has nothing to do with political conventions, and everything to do with the wind and the future - a little bit about the tipping of the balance of power among lobbyists.

Vestas expects to employ 2,450 people in Colorado…

…The towers will be built in Pueblo - biggest such in the world. Blades and nacelles in Brighton CO. Blades in Windsor.

That's probably more people than work in "clean coal' combined, the world over: and they don't even have to get filthy. No support columns caving in on poor miners either. Nice. Who would have thought a Danish company would be the light at the end of the tunnel.

Green-News: Monday 8.25.08

Proper loading
Ensure your drier isn't overloaded. Air needs to circulate easily between the clothes in order for drying to be most effective.

Venting
Open a window when using the dryer. A closed up laundry gets very humid and that humid air just gets sucked into the drier; decreasing its effectiveness. If your drier has an exhaust leading to the outside; ensure that it's cleaned regularly.

Separate loads
Heavier items should be dried separately to light weight clothes.

Cool it
Many modern clothes driers have a cool-down cycle which allows the clothes to complete drying with the remaining heat in the dryer. If you live in a dry climate, a cool cycle can be extended.

The Rainforest Action Network, Greenpeace International, Friends of the Earth and the Center for Science in the Public Interest are all campaigning against palm oil. (You can find their arguments here and here and here and here.) Last week, RAN asked about 2,000 volunteers to sneak into food stores across the United States and attach stickers to products made with palm oil.

"Warning!," the stickers said. "May Contain Rainforest Destruction."

The targets of the RAN campaign are three global agricultural firms that grow or import palm oil: Archer Daniels Midland (ADM, Fortune 500), Cargill and Bunge (BG). The goal of last week's stunt was to get the attention of consumer-goods companies, who are being asked to look into their sourcing of palm oil.

"We're working our way down the food chain," explained Mike Brune, the executive director of RAN. "Most customers won't want rainforest destruction and climate change in every mouthful of cookies or crackers, so our plan is to start with the most prominent brands. Once we get some of the top brands on our side, we'll use the power of the pocketbook to convince the 'A,B,C's' (ADM, Bunge and Cargill) that destroying rainforests and increasing climate change isn't smart - for business or the planet."

In the worst cases, two samples of filleted fish sold as red snapper, caught mostly off the southeast United States and in the Caribbean, were instead the endangered Acadian redfish from the North Atlantic, according to the tests, revealed on Friday.

"We never expected these results. People should get what they pay for," Kate Stoeckle, 18, told Reuters of the project with Louisa Strauss, 17.

The two classmates from New York's Trinity school collected and sent off 60 fish samples to the University of Guelph in Canada. Of 56 samples that could be identified by a four-year-old DNA identification technique, 14 were mislabeled.

In all cases, the fish was labeled as a more costly type, apparently ruling out simple chance. It was the first known student use of DNA barcoding technology in a public market.

"We really like sushi and we'd take home fish samples and put them in alcohol," Stoeckle said of fish bought in shops and restaurants in Upper Manhattan.

Viva Tomato!

Tomato time! Here's my tomato last week:

 

Now, after some limb tying. Check out today:

 

 
 

And yesterday I plucked three luscious tomatoes:

 

This plant is unstoppable!

Green-News: Friday 8.22.08

  • New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is hell-bent on renewable energy. In fact, he wants to power NYC with windmills. More from ENN:
Bloomberg said he is determined to keep the city's energy usage at or near its current level even as the population grows. But the city has to increase production of clean energy, he said.

"I believe that we've got to be willing to do what some other nations -- such as France -- have already done, and increase our capacity of safe and clean nuclear-generated power," he said.

Clean energy projects could also "draw power from the tides of the Hudson and East Rivers -- something we're already doing on a pilot basis," he said.

Bloomberg proposed increasing rooftop solar power production, "which we've estimated could meet nearly 20 percent of the city's need for electricity."

Companies may also "want to put windfarms atop our bridges and skyscrapers, or use the enormous potential of powerful off-shore winds miles out in the Atlantic Ocean, where turbines could generate roughly twice the energy that land-based windfarms can," he said.

Stamets is also experimenting with packaging materials infused with mycelium and tree seedlings, that could help regenerate old growth forests (though I can’t help but wonder about the dangers of shipping non-native species around the globe), and he has also been exploring the possibility of using fungi in the production of cellulosic ethanol (Matthew has delved a little into fungi and ethanol before). But, in our experience of talking about Stamets’ work, it’s usually the slides about mycopesticides that most often blow people’s minds – once you’ve seen a mushroom infesting a termite, and then sprouting from its head, you start to understand what Stamets means when he says that these are powerful organisms that we would do well to understand better.
While the practice carries serious health risks for many, those dangers are eclipsed by the social and economic gains for poor urban farmers and consumers who need affordable food, the study authors say.

Nearly 200 million farmers in China, India, Vietnam, sub-Saharan Africa, and Latin America harvest grains and vegetables from fields that use untreated human waste.

Ten percent of the world's population relies on such foods, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

"There is a large potential for wastewater agriculture to both help and hurt great numbers of urban consumers," said Liqa Raschid-Sally, who led the study published by the Sri Lanka-based International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and released this week at the World Water Week conference in Stockholm, Sweden.

Green-News: Thursday 8.21.08

  1. Congress must pass legislation that puts a price on carbon and establish a cap-and-trade system. The alternative is passing a carbon tax, Clinton says, but adds that he tried that route already and it didn’t work out too well.
  2. We need to renew and lengthen the tax credits for clean energy. The time frame needs to be longer than three years — more like 6 to 10 years. That is the only way to stimulate enough production of clean energy technologies.
  3. It’s important to figure out the federal government’s role in modernizing the electrical grid, including both efficiency and carrying capacity. The grid wastes a lot of energy moving power, given that the wind blows and the sun shines in places where a lot of people don’t live. Tax payers should also be able to split the cost of modernizing the grid with utilities.
If they weren't wasting energy via freezing rooms or water due to countless loads of laundry they were filling landfills with plastic keycards. Wait. What? How big of a footprint could those thin plastic keycards be leaving? How about 1,300 tons (TONS!) per year? That may not bigfootesque in the relative picture but it is still an alarming, and totally unnecessary, impact.

Here's why plastic keycards are unnecessary: we don't need them. Simple, isn't it? It turns out that Europe has been using wooden keycards for that past 10 years. Seems like someone could have told us (note to self: travel).

From Gadling: "This morning, Sustainable Cards, maker of the United States' first wooden hotel keycards, announced that 70,000 biodegradable wooden keycards will be used in Denver hotels during next week's Democratic National Convention."

It seems like a strange move, one step removed from attempts to tinker with ecosystem problems by introducing new predators or invasive species. But the coastal waters of the Earth already abound in old ships: Besides the famous goners like the Lusitania or the Gordon Lightfoot-immortalized Edmund Fitzgerald, it’s impossible to know just how many long-forgotten ships are decaying under the sea. In any case, divers have already identified 38 species of fish hanging around the Oriskany.
The Navy spent $20 million cleaning up the Oriskany before they sank it, but the city of Pensacola has recouped $4 million from tourism—recreational divers or war buffs who want to go down and see the ship. Perhaps other cities will start asking the Navy to sink a ship in their harbor so they have a new tourist attraction. However, once you’ve seen one retired Cold War relic inhabited by marine life, you’ve probably seen them all.
More importantly, from a should-we-or-shouldn’t-we-perspective, the Navy’s cleaning operation wasn’t totally complete. According to The New York Times, 700 pounds of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) remained aboard the Oriskany when it went down, thanks to an agreement the Navy struck with the EPA. The State of Florida is currently studying whether these toxic compounds are getting into the food chain, but considering Congress banned PCBs 30 years ago, we’re not exactly excited about the idea of having them sitting in the ocean.

Green-News: Wednesday 8.20.08

It's a widespread phenomenon, occurring on 20m hectares across the developing world, especially in Asian countries like China, India and Vietnam, but also around nearly every city of sub-Saharan Africa and in many Latin American cities as well," said IWMI researcher Liqa Raschid-Sally.

"Nor is it limited to the countries and cities with the lowest GDP. It is prevalent in many mid-income countries as well", she said.

The report, launched today at World Water Week in Stockholm, Sweden, found the practice "widespread and practically inevitable".

"As long as developing countries lack suitable transport to deliver large quantities of perishable produce to urban areas, urban agriculture will remain important. In the face of water scarcity generally and a lack of access to clean water, urban farmers will have no alternative except to use … polluted water", write the authors.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates there are about 28,000 deaths each year linked to unsafe products, including toys, in the United States. More than 33 million people were injured last year by consumer products.

The bill also bans a chemical called phthalates that is widely used to make plastic products softer and more flexible.

And the legislation bolsters the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which took the brunt of criticism last year over the massive recalls and the government’s failure to monitor toy imports before they reach store shelves.

The bill would double the agency’s budget, to $136 million by 2014, and give it new authority to oversee testing procedures and to penalize violators.

The state increased recycling by four percent to reach 72 percent recovery, an all-time high.

The state says this means more than 680 million containers were recycled from July 1, 2007 to June 30, 2008. State law requires that if more than 70 percent of containers are recycled there would be an increase in the container recycling fee (this cover costs of collection and sorting), but the director of health decided to waive the fee increase (it’s currently one cent per container).

Hawaii is one of 11 states to offer a beverage container deposit, meaning consumers pay a fee (in this case six cents) when purchasing containers and get a refund when the containers are recycled.

Green-News: Tuesday 8.19.08

L.A.'s future depends on our citizens to adopt an ethic of conservation," Villaraigosa said.

The anti-drought initiative has coincided with efforts by Villaraigosa to keep his top appointee at the DWP, Commission President Nick Patsaouras, from quitting his post. Perhaps the utility's most aggressive watchdog on spending issues, Patsaouras sent a resignation e-mail Monday, but the mayor refused to accept it.

Villaraigosa said his appointee had repeatedly talked about leaving the volunteer post and about being "overworked." Patsaouras serves on a panel overseeing construction of the new $454-million police headquarters.

"He's talked to me about resigning more than a few times. Each time, I get him to realize that we need him," Villaraigosa said.

Patsaouras would not discuss his conversation with the mayor but sent a brief text message to The Times saying he would stay put "to fulfill the mayor's vision."

  • Monsanto, a monumentally lucrative and extremely dubious mega-corporation, is seeing more and more of its dirty laundry being aired out for public viewing. Check out this post and video via Green Living Tips:
Additionally, what I am increasingly becoming aware of is just how much control agri-business and the biotech industry has over governments. It's not only a heavy outside influence from lobbying, but inside as well. For example, Donald Rumsfeld was an ex CEO of a Monsanto subsidiary; and there's many others law makers who previously were associated with biotech companies. The importance of that and the ramifications become clear in the video below.

This may all sound a little tinfoil hat I guess, but when you think about it - control the food, control the water ... you control the world.

Rather than rattle on about the topic with my own half-baked thoughts (I'm still reeling from all the information), I present this documentary to you for consideration - Controlling Our Food. This isn't a 10 minute YouTube presentation - it goes for nearly two hours; so you'll need to set aside a bit of time - but please take the time to do so as it's worth it.

A resident of Edinburgh Zoo in Scotland, the original Nils Olav was made an honorary member of the King's Guard in 1972 after being picked out as the guard's mascot by lieutenant Nils Egelien. The guards adopted him because they often toured the zoo during their visits to the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, an annual military music festival, according to zoo spokeswoman Maxine Finlay.

The king penguin was named after Egelien and Norway's then-King Olav V. When the penguin died — Finlay said no one at the zoo knew exactly when — he was replaced by a second penguin, who inherited Nils Olav's name and rank.

The current Nils Olav, the third penguin to serve as the guards' mascot, was promoted from honorable regimental sergeant major to honorary colonel-in-chief in 2005, Finlay said.

The Urban Gardening Sprawl...

I’m not the only urbanite growing his own organic produce. More and more people are making good use of the free space around their homes, like these L.A. residents who transformed a seedy cinder-block wall into a cascade of strawberries, tomatoes, herbs, and vegetables. Cara Mia DiMassa of The Los Angeles Times reports:

The first time they tried planting vegetables, in a couple of wooden bins on the rooftop of their building, their novice status meant that plants weren't watered and cared for properly.

"Everything died," said Chris Owens, the group's de facto leader.

The second time, things went better. Members of the group paid special attention to the sprouts they planted, watering and pruning with care. And under their vigilant tending, corn stalks pushed upward. Watermelons appeared on vines.

Many residents were surprised by the way gardening united them, in an area where it sometimes seems best to mind your own business and keep to yourself.

"It brings us together as a group, kind of like therapy, to see something growing and flourishing," Jannie Burrows said.

"We're trying to feed our bodies with better nutrients," Lance Shaw said. "But more than anything, we like getting together."

The modest initial success led the Rainbow group to the nonprofit Urban Farming, which helped the group install the green wall last week as part of its Food Chain project. Urban Farming also erected "edible" walls at the Los Angeles Regional Foodbank, the Miguel Contreras Learning Center and the Weingart Center.

The Food Chain project, said Urban Farming founder Taja Sevelle, enables residents in some of the city's poorest areas to grow food in underused spaces at a time when food prices are soaring. The walls, she said, "get people to think outside the box. You can plant food in so many different places."

And Londoners are becoming expert backyard farmers too—via National Geographic News. Now, in case you can’t grow your own fruits and veggies. Christine McKinney of Eight Right, Stay Well shares a great shopping tip, Produce: The Dirtiest and the Cleanest. Actually, Christine’s list is very similar to Dr. Fuhrman’s chart of the least and most contaminated produce.

Green-News: Monday 8.18.08

Dead zones occur when excess nutrients—usually nitrogen and phosphorus—from agriculture or the burning of fossil fuels seep into the water system and fertilize blooms of algae along the coast.

As the microscopic plants die and sink to the ocean floor, they feed bacteria, which consume dissolved oxygen from surrounding waters. This limits oxygen availability for bottom-dwelling organisms and the fish that eat them…

…The second largest dead zone surrounds the mouth of the Mississippi River in the Gulf of Mexico. Despite decades of efforts to clean up U.S. rivers and lakes, high nitrogen levels are currently combining with strong water flow to make that dead zone larger than it has ever been.

Trying to Fight Air Pollution
Only 4 months ago, we wrote about how big cars were the stars at the Beijing Auto Show. But now that air pollution is in the news more than ever because of the olympics, it seems like the Chinese government has had second thoughts: It decided to reduce taxes on small cars, and increase them on big vehicles. And they're not taking half-measures. The tax on some big vehicles can be as high as 40%.

China's Tax Scale is Based on Engine Size
Starting on September 1st, passenger vehicles with engines bigger than 4 liters will see their tax doubled to 40% from 20%. Engines with displacement from 2 liters to 4 liters will be taxed 25%, up from the current 15%, and cars with engines at or smaller than 1 liter would drop to 1% from the current 3%.

They're participating in a nationwide consumer boycott of Kellogg's Co. instigated by the Organic Consumers Association. By boycotting the world's largest cereal company, they hope to pressure Kellogg's into rejecting the use of sugar from genetically engineered (GE) sugar beets and to spark widespread market rejection in products ranging from cereal to baby food to candy.

As you may know, Roundup Ready sugar beets are genetically altered to resist Monsanto's toxic weed killer, Roundup, and its active ingredient, glyphosate. But here's the scary truth about these beets:

When the USDA first approved GE sugar beets for commercial planting in 1998, the EPA also increased the maximum allowable residues of glyphosate on sugar beet roots from just .02 parts per million to 10ppm. That's a staggering 5,000 percent increase of allowable toxins on beet roots. And, it's little surprise that EPA made this policy change at the request of Monsanto.

Over 20 Tomatoes!

It’s time to check in with my tomato plant. You remember last week:


It just keeps growing! Here’s today:




There are more than 20 tomatoes on that plant—heck yeah!

Green-News: Friday 8.15.08

Under the settlement of a lawsuit brought by anti-pesticide groups and salmon fishermen, NOAA Fisheries has issued a draft biological opinion that found the way chlorpyrifos, diazinon and malathion get into salmon streams at levels high enough to kill salmon protected by the Endangered Species Act.

The chemicals interfere with salmon's sense of smell, making it harder for them to avoid predators, find food, and even find their native spawning streams.

Banned from many household uses, tens of millions of pounds of the chemicals are still used throughout the range of Pacific salmon on a wide range of fruits, vegetables, forage crops, cotton, fence posts and livestock to control mosquitoes, flies, termites, boll weevils and other pests, according to NOAA Fisheries.

Jim Lecky, head of the office of protected resources for NOAA Fisheries Service, said his team has until a court-imposed deadline of Oct. 31 to work with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to find new ways to safely use the chemicals.

  • E. coli good for making you sick and possibly good for making “renewable petroleum.” Silicon Valley is figuring it all out. Chris Ayres of The Times Online explains:
What is most remarkable about what they are doing is that instead of trying to reengineer the global economy – as is required, for example, for the use of hydrogen fuel – they are trying to make a product that is interchangeable with oil. The company claims that this “Oil 2.0” will not only be renewable but also carbon negative – meaning that the carbon it emits will be less than that sucked from the atmosphere by the raw materials from which it is made.

LS9 has already convinced one oil industry veteran of its plan: Bob Walsh, 50, who now serves as the firm’s president after a 26-year career at Shell, most recently running European supply operations in London. “How many times in your life do you get the opportunity to grow a multi-billion-dollar company?” he asks. It is a bold statement from a man who works in a glorified cubicle in a San Francisco industrial estate for a company that describes itself as being “prerevenue”.

Inside LS9’s cluttered laboratory – funded by $20 million of start-up capital from investors including Vinod Khosla, the Indian-American entrepreneur who co-founded Sun Micro-systems – Mr Pal explains that LS9’s bugs are single-cell organisms, each a fraction of a billionth the size of an ant. They start out as industrial yeast or nonpathogenic strains of E. coli, but LS9 modifies them by custom-de-signing their DNA. “Five to seven years ago, that process would have taken months and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars,” he says. “Now it can take weeks and cost maybe $20,000.”

Designed by noted architect Helmut Jahn and developed by New York-based Time Equities Inc., the building will incorporate environmentally sustainable technologies including a green roof, efficient water fixtures and plumbing, automatic blinds and energy control. Further, the 65-story building will be clad in energy-efficient glass that maximizes use of natural light and filters UV rays. All waste from demolition will be recycled and construction materials will be "sustainable" and "rapidly renewable," according to the developer.

"50 West Street is marked by sustainable design, advanced technology, landmark architecture, and commitment to the community," said Phillip Gesue, director of acquisitions and development for Time Equities.

The eco-tower will contain 240 residential units and 150 hotel and retail units, as well as 2,500 square feet of meeting space.

Green-News: Thursday 8.14.08

"What we should be talking about is food security not food production - that is what matters and that is what people will not understand.

"And if they think also that somehow it's all going to work because they are going to have one form of clever genetic engineering after another then again count me out, because that will be guaranteed to cause the biggest disaster environmentally of all time."

Charles said relying on gigantic corporations for the mass production of food would threaten future food supplies. And he said small farmers would be the victims.

"If they think this is the way to go we will end up with millions of small farmers all over the world being driven off their land into unsustainable, unmanageable, degraded and dysfunctional conurbations of unmentionable awfulness then you count me out. I think it will be an absolute disaster."

"There are costs to adapting to climate change ... By planning now, we can reduce our exposure to weather-related events," the mayor told reporters.

A task force charged with safeguarding all of the city's roads, bridges, tunnels, mass transit, water and sewer lines, and power and telecommunications systems will begin with an inventory. It will then forecast and report on the local impact of climate change and devise safeguards, he said.

"In order to manage any problem, first you have to measure it," Bloomberg said, recalling a lesson he learned while working on Wall Street. "In God we trust; everybody else has to bring data."

His latest effort is one of the 127 green initiatives launched last year in his PlaNYC program.

Unspoilt Amazonian rainforests covering an area almost as large as Texas have been provisionally earmarked for oil and gas exploration.

A new report reveals that the area has been divided into 180 "blocks" designated for exploration by governments of countries that own the land on the western fringe of the Amazon. Their intention is to lease the blocks to oil and gas companies for exploration and extraction, taking a cut of any revenues as a royalty. About 35 oil companies are vying for the contracts.

However, most of the blocks overlap with huge areas of rainforest that would become vulnerable to illegal hunting and logging once breached by roads to service exploration activities.

Exercise: Biking for Health and Gold

British cyclist Nicole Cooke began biking at age 11, racing her father—a former competitive cyclist—twice a day during her seven-mile trip to and from school and now she’s a 2008 Olympic gold medalist. The Telegraph reports:

The young Miss Cooke and her father, himself a former competitive cyclist, shunned the bus to dash from their home in the village of Wick, in the rolling hills of the Vale of Glamorgan in south Wales, to Brynteg Comprehensive School in Bridgend, where Tony Cooke taught physics.

The unusual training quickly paid off and Miss Cooke, now 25, publicly announced her life's ambition, and her talent, after winning the Welsh cyclo-cross championship in 1994.

She beat everyone in her age group - including the boys - then promptly announced in a live television interview: "I want to win a gold medal at the Olympics."

Miss Cooke was given her first bike for Christmas when she was six-years-old.

Mr Cooke said: "It was a little blue bike with stabilisers and she got very angry with the stabilisers straight away and demanded we take them off.

"Since then we've brought her a bike for most birthdays and for every Christmas.

"She had a passion for riding straight away and we all went on tandem bike-ride holidays together.

"She was always competing at school and knew this is what she wanted to do as a career.

"I used to go out cycling with her but eventually she sacked me.

Wow! That’s a tough chick. Sounds like my kind of girl. Kudos to Cooke on her win! Clearly, cycling is a great workout, but it can also save you a ton on fuel. In fact, one college student is using bike rides to help her last all summer on just ONE tank of gas—via The Huffington Post.

Green-News: Wednesday 8.13.08

Yao explained how he’ll take on this enormously important task, “So I will work with young people across the world and try to inspire them to plant trees, use energy efficient light bulbs, harvest rain water and to become environmental champions in their own communities.”
He’s got billions of eyes on him as he competes for the Chinese basketball team, and he recently had the coveted honor to act as their flag carrier in the Olympic opening ceremonies. He uses this opportunity in the spotlight to ask for help in his task, “As the world celebrates the Beijing Olympic Games, I would also like to call upon the organizers of all major sports events in the world to make sure they use public transport facilities, build proper waste management systems and use greener forms for energy.”
Satellite images show that ice caps started to disintegrate dramatically several days ago as storms over Alaska's Beaufort Sea began sucking streams of warm air into the Arctic. As a result, scientists say that the disappearance of sea ice at the North Pole could exceed last year's record loss. More than a million square kilometres melted over the summer of 2007 as global warming tightened its grip on the Arctic. But such destruction could now be matched, or even topped, this year.
'It is a neck-and-neck race between 2007 and this year over the issue of ice loss,' said Mark Serreze, of the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre in Boulder, Colorado. 'We thought Arctic ice cover might recover after last year's unprecedented melting - and indeed the picture didn't look too bad last month. Cover was significantly below normal, but at least it was up on last year.
But the Beaufort Sea storms triggered steep ice losses and it now looks as if it will be a very close call indeed whether 2007 or 2008 is the worst year on record for ice cover over the Arctic. We will only find out when the cover reaches its minimum in mid-September.'
Elephant seals swimming under Antarctic ice and fitted with special sensors are providing scientists with crucial data on ice formation, ocean currents and climate change, a study released on Tuesday said.
The seals swimming under winter sea ice have overcome a "blind-spot" for scientists by allowing them to calculate how fast sea ice forms during winter.
Sea ice reflects sunlight back into space, so less sea ice means more energy is absorbed by the earth, causing more warming.
"They have made it possible for us to observe large areas of the ocean under the sea ice in winter for the first time," said co-author Steve Rintoul from Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO).

Green-News: Tuesday 8.12.08

I think reducing our carbon footprint is at the forefront of our minds and there are some smaller-scale, realistic steps we can take to help the economy/environment and our health.

I love the idea of trying to eat locally as much as possible. Also, I think many of us could benefit from cutting back on the junk - with the energy cost adding extra incentive. (Cheetos: bad for your arteries AND your planet).

As for eschewing meat... I think I'll just change to fluorescent light bulbs. But seriously, the unrelenting omnivore can be more environmentally friendly by eating locally raised meat, meat with less packaging or simply by cutting back a little.

I think having the awareness that our dietary choices affect our economy and our planet in addition to our own personal health is crucial. If everybody made small changes, we can collectively make a big difference.
There has been some controversy over waterless urinals, notable opponents including the plumber’s union of Philadelphia. However, joint research by Falcon Waterfree Technologies and UCLA, as well as research by other independent bodies, suggests environmental, economical and health benefits beyond saving water include improved hygiene compared to manual flush urinals (although these are uncommon in Japan as most flush urinals use automatic sensors), lower maintenance costs and energy savings leading to reductions in CO2 output.

Waterless urinals generally look and function much like a regular flush urinal and connect to the standard plumbing system. The notable difference is in the use of specially-designed cartridges containing oil-based liquids designed to filter urine and trap odors. As urine is composed of around 96% water and is free of bacteria and viruses, the urine simply passes through the filter and joins the normal waste stream. The filters are recyclable and the liquids are not considered to be harmful to the environment.
Sellafield is home to a nuclear waster processing plant. The waterways are full of weapons-grade plutonium as well as Cobalt-60 which is a known carcinogen. It's not only the local birds that are infected. Norway, 500 miles away, has reported finding radiation levels in their lobsters, shrimps and mussels. Liquid discharges of technetium-99 have increased fifty times over from Shellafield since 1994.

Local authorities have tried scaring the birds away for the toxic ponds with loud noises and they've even tried shooting them but the gulls continue to visit the ponds. It must be the radioactive, 14-eyed fish that keep them coming back for more.

Green-News: Monday 8.11.08

The military has set a goal that 25 percent of its energy should come from renewable sources by 2025 and aims to create machines and methods to help Main Street America reach similar targets, said Alan Shaffer, a retired Air Force officer who leads the Pentagon's research and engineering arm.

"It's only the Department of Defense that is big enough and has the federal mandate for the necessary scope of development" of new energy technologies and products, said Shaffer.

While the military marches on a greener path in which "every soldier is a steward of the environment" -- in Shaffer's words -- the federal government faces widespread criticism for failing to take significant action to slow climate change.

On the same day Shaffer arrived in California last week to tour military bases that test energy efficiency and renewable power, California announced plans to sue the Environmental Protection Agency for "wantonly" ignoring its duty to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.
In some countries, such as the USA, for instance, most of the plastic bags given away by grocery stores and others are made not from oil but natural gas, and the USA has ample supply of natural gas within its own borders – so no costly imports. Other countries are not so lucky.


In addition it has to be said that that only applies if the bags are actually produced in the USA and not, as will be more likely the case, in places such as China (or India). The source of the ethylene from which the polyethylene is then constructed we do not know.

Whatever the source, the fact remains that Plastic Bags Are Bad For The Environment

Most of what you have read about plastic bags is true. Plastic bags kill wildlife, cause pollution, clog landfills and indirectly raise the price of food at the grocery store. There are also, aside from those made from PLAs, that is to say those that are made from a plastic made from corn starch and lactic acids and such, no biodegradable plastic bags about. That is a fallacy and absolute greenwashing. Ordinary polyethylene shopping bags do NOT biodegrade; they photodegrade. That is to say they break down into ever smaller and smaller particles of plastic in the environment, all the while releasing harmful substances into the soil and water.
Chinese imports have had a bad year in the news, making headlines for contaminated pet food, toxic toys, and recently, certified organic ginger contaminated with levels of a pesticide called aldicarb that can cause nausea, headaches and blurred vision even at low levels. The ginger, sold under the 365 label at Whole Foods Market, contained a level of aldicarb not even permissible for conventional ginger, let alone organics. Whole Foods immediately pulled the product from its shelves.


Ronnie Cummins, the national director of the Organic Consumers Association, emphasizes that most organic farmers "play by the rules." They believe in organic principles and thereby comply with organic standards. Unfortunately, Congress' pitifully inadequate funding for enforcement, including for organic imports from countries like China, "guarantees it'll be easy for unscrupulous players to cheat, and that's obviously what's going on here."

Farms that produce USDA-certified organic food are not personally inspected by anyone from the USDA National Organic Program (NOP). As a small and underfunded agency within the USDA (it has fewer than a dozen employees), NOP relies on what it calls Accredited Certifying Agencies -- ACAs -- to do the legwork. The ACAs take responsibility for ensuring that any farm or processor bearing the organic label meets the strict requirements for certification.

More Green Tomatoes

Let’s see how my tomato is doing. This was last week:



Get a load of today:






Of course they’re all going to ripen at once!

Green-News: Friday 8.08.08

  • Apparently, you can make rubber from dandelions and experts believe that using the pesky weed this way will not only save billions of dollars and will be better for the environment. Eric Bland of Discovery News reports:
Scientists from Ohio State University's Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) and the Ohio BioProducts Innovation Center (OBIC) recently received a $3 million grant to design and build a processing plant that would turn sticky white dandelion root sap into quality rubber for less money than current methods, say the scientists.

"No matter how much chemistry we've applied, we still haven't been able to find an artificial substitute for natural rubber," said William Ravlin, a researcher involved in the project. "We're still harvesting [rubber] the same way they did 1,000 years ago; by cutting into the tree and letting the sap drip into containers. It's not a very efficient system."

Efficiency, according to the Ohio scientists, would be Midwestern farmers in air-conditioned tractors harvesting acres of yellow dandelions with the same machines used to pull tulip bulbs.
High in sugar content, the project team estimates that varieties of Agave tequilana weber can yield up to 2,000 gallons of distilled ethanol per acre per year and from 12,000-18,000 gallons per acre per year if their cellulose is included, some 14 dry tons of feedstock per acre every year.


These figures far outshine the plants that are dominating ethanol and biofuels' R&D and investment today, not only in terms of potential ethanol yield per acre, but also in terms of energy balance (the ratio of energy in the product to the energy input to produce it), as well as actual and prospective planted acreage.

Corn ethanol, for example, has an energy balance ratio of 1.3 and produces approximately 300-400 gallons of ethanol per acre. Soybean biodiesel, with an energy balance of 2.5, typically can yield 60 gallons of biodiesel per acre while an acre of sugar cane can produce 600-800 gallons of ethanol with an energy balance of 8.0. An acre of poplar trees can yield more than 1,500 gallons of cellulosic ethanol with an energy balance of 12.0, according to a National Geographic study published in October 2007.
The decision comes as more retailers, saying they are responding to consumer demand, are selling dairy products from cows not treated with the artificial hormone.


Wal-Mart, Kroger and Publix are among the retailers that now sell house-brand milk from untreated cows. Almost all of the fresh milk sold by Dean Foods, the nation’s largest milk bottler, also comes from cows that were not treated with the artificial hormone, a spokeswoman said.

Monsanto officials said the decision was not related to the retail trend and that business for the artificial hormone, sold under the brand name Posilac, remained brisk. Monsanto, which is based in St. Louis and is the only commercial manufacturer of the hormone, declined to provide sales numbers.

Selling Posilac “will allow Monsanto to focus on the growth of its core seeds and traits business while ensuring that loyal dairy farmers continue to receive the value of Posilac in their operations,” Carl Casale, Monsanto’s executive vice president for strategy and operations, said in a statement.

Green-News: Thursday 8.07.08

Advertisers who violate the law face fines from $250 for a first offense to $1,000 for repeat violators.

The “lawn litter” legislation was sponsored by State Senator Frank Padavan and Assemblyman Mark S. Weprin, both of Queens, where complaints about “lawn litter” have been particularly acute.

The property owner’s sign must be at least five inches tall and seven inches wide, and display the following language in legible letters at least one inch in size: “Do Not Place Unsolicited Advertising Materials On This Property.”
AT A SPANKING new lingerie factory in Thulhiriya, a short drive from Colombo, Sri Lanka's capital, senior managers wear T-shirts. This is not because MAS Holdings, the country's biggest apparel company, which recently opened the factory, is a dress-down sort of a firm. It is because the factory has no air-conditioning. Instead it uses evaporative cooling, which leaves the workplace around four degrees hotter than air-conditioning would—but uses much less energy.


The factory has many energy-saving features. Its carefully designed windows provide enough natural light for workers stitching bras. Its turf roofs provide a cooling shade. Overall it uses 40% less energy than an ordinary factory of the same size. And the electricity it uses is from renewable sources: 90% from a hydro-power plant and 10% from on-site solar panels. MAS reckons it has built the world's first carbon-neutral clothes factory.

It was built at the instigation of Britain's biggest clothier, Marks & Spencer (M&S), which contributed £200,000 ($400,000) towards the cost of the solar panels and design. The "green" underwear that MAS is now making at the factory for M&S will reach British high streets in June, and will cost no more than existing garments.
While gas prices are retreating somewhat now, people need to understand that the recent hikes were a tap on the shoulder; a perhaps final hint that we need to alter our lifestyles dramatically. Nature has a funny way of working - all things must be kept in balance and sometimes it will deliver a direct slap in the face, other times via other mediums.


The point is that all things are connected in Nature and for us to believe we have tamed it is a massive mistake. Whether through political unrest, peak oil or environmental disaster; the days of cheap fossil fuel are certainly numbered and that's probably a good thing as otherwise we'd just choke on our own hyperconsumption.

In that aspect, we're very much like children. Give a small child a bag of candy and tell them they can only have one piece a day, but it's up to them to control their consumption - and watch what happens :). Nature is the parent, and like any good parent, it will monitor and discipline us - harshly if we don't get the hint.

Green-News: Wednesday 8.06.08

Economists now say that one-third of China's carbon dioxide emissions are pumped into the atmosphere in order to manufacture exported goods – many of them "advanced" electronics goods destined for developed countries.

"Export goods emissions" account for 1.7 billion tonnes of China's carbon dioxide. That represents 6% of total global emissions – the equivalent of Germany, France and the UK's combined emissions.

Discussing the scale of China's emissions has been a hot topic since it was forecast that they could surpass US emissions as the world's leader in 2007. Some say that has now happened.

A large share of these emissions – up to 25% – has been blamed on China's ever-growing export market, but this has not been quantified until now.
Tax breaks for the oil and gas industry included in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 increase from around $1.3 billion in 2000 to some $3.6 billion in 2008, and they’re set to grow further, to some $3.8 billion by 2010, according to the Joint Committee on "Taxation Estimates of Federal Tax Expenditures for Fiscal Years 2007-2011," FoE points out in its analysis (pdf). The list of oil and gas industry tax breaks is a long one. At an estimated cost of $5.9 billion over five years, the oil and gas depletion allowance allows oil companies to deduct 15% of their sales revenues to reflect the declining value of their investment. The problem is that the accounting methodology does not accurately reflect companies’ assets actual loss in value over time, and they often wind up deducting more than the value of their original investment, according to the report’s authors. Congress has passed H.R. 4520, the "American Jobs Creation Act of 2004," which included provisions added that changed the classification of oil and natural gas production to that of a manufactured good.


"This enabled them to claim billions of dollars in new tax deductions, effectively lowering their tax rate," according to the report.

Initial estimates by the Joint Committee on Taxation estimated that it would cost the federal government some $3.5 billion over the next five years. On the other hand, efforts to change this, as was included in "The Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation Tax Act of 2008," could raise more than $5.1 billion in revenue. Deductions for intangible drilling costs — cost of wages, supplies and site preparation, royalty payments, foreign royalty, and income tax payments will add another $6.5 billion to the lost government revenue total over the next five years.
One reason for the rampant waste is that many people aren't sure how long they can safely keep fruits and vegetables. If your fruit has gone bad, however, you'll generally know -- if not from telltale dark spots, then by smelling or squeezing it.


Knowing how to pick and store your produce can help extend shelf life so it doesn't get to the point where you have to throw it out. The best methods vary depending on the fruit or vegetable, but a few rules of thumb generally apply across the board.

The first step is to immediately inspect your goods once you get home and pluck out any spoiled specimens.

"It really is true that one bad apple can make the entire bunch go bad," said James Parker, who's in charge of buying produce for Whole Foods Markets.

That's especially true for soft fruits such as peaches and nectarines. And the higher the sugar content, the more likely a fruit is to spoil faster.

An Organic Garden at the White House...


Eat the View, a movement to plant healthy, edible landscapes in high-impact, high visibility places, wants the White House to plant an organic food garden. Via Bethany Sanders of That’sFit:
We planted our first vegetable garden this past spring and enjoyed it so much that we just spent the weekend doubling its size for next year. With a very small financial investment and a little bit of physical labor, we've been able to contribute fresh, healthy, organic foods to our menu and teach our kids some lessons about food production as well.

Rising food costs, food safety concerns, and an increased awareness about environmental issues have lead to an increase in backyard gardening. And some food activists are hoping to encourage that trend by putting an organic garden on one of the most well-known lawns in Amercia ... The White House.
Sounds like a great idea, the ultimate lead by example! The White House used to farm in the past. Check out this photo on EatTheView.org:

Although I imagine the scarecrow would be equipped with spy cameras, machine guns, and night vision.

Green-News: Tuesday 8.05.08

If we don’t, echo scientists, life on this planet will change as we know it. With the emerging economy of China, the eastern superpower is now producing more greenhouse gases than America.

For every coal plant America shuts down, China opens 20 more. In light of some of our imminent problems, Andrew Simms from the New Economics Foundation wrote an eye-opening opinion piece on the Guardian on the New Green Deal, a UK plan-of-action released last month to counteract climate change.

Simms, the policy director and head of the climate change program at the New Economics Foundation (NEF) –– a “think and do tank” –– says it’s now time to scream “FIRE!” We have 100 months (about 8 years) he warns to make radical changes to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
Eight state and local jurisdictions filed similar notices today, formally declaring their intent to sue the EPA for unreasonable delay. The filers included the states of California, Connecticut, New Jersey, Oregon, the City of New York, the South Coast Air Quality Management District, California Air Resources Board and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.


The coalition filed petitions to the EPA in October and December 2007, requesting that it determine whether greenhouse gas emissions from marine vessels and aircraft endanger public health and welfare, and if so, to issue regulations to control greenhouse gas emissions from these sources. The coalition asked for a response within 180 days but none was received during that period.
The explosion of jellyfish populations, scientists say, reflects a combination of severe overfishing of natural predators, like tuna, sharks and swordfish; rising sea temperatures caused in part by global warming; and pollution that has depleted oxygen levels in coastal shallows.


These problems are pronounced in the Mediterranean, a sea bounded by more than a dozen countries that rely on it for business and pleasure. Left unchecked in the Mediterranean and elsewhere, these problems could make the swarms of jellyfish menacing coastlines a grim vision of seas to come.

"The problem on the beach is a social problem," said Dr. Gili, who talks with admiration of the "beauty" of the globular jellyfish. "We need to take care of it for our tourism industry. But the big problem is not on the beach. It's what's happening in the seas."

Green-News: Monday 8.04.08

In what Greenpeace is calling a major victory for the oceans, Amsterdam based supermarket owner Royal Ahold, which owns U.S. supermarkets Stop & Shop and Giant Food, announced that they are suspending sales of three overfished "red list" species: shark, orange roughy and the oh-so-delicious Chilean seabass.

Last month Greenpeace issued a report on how we're emptying the seas, and included a challenge to the top 20 U.S. supermarkets to change the way they purchase and sell seafood. Royal Ahold was rated number two on that report, in terms of their purchasing practices, although this move will improve their score considerably.

The list was interesting. All of the supermarkets, even #1 Whole Foods, totally fail in terms of sustainable seafood. Surprisingly, Wal-Mart way outscored feel good Trader Joe's. In fact, Costco and Winn-Dixie were also better! But it's splitting hairs because they all sell fish on the red list. Bad!
Scientists from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign have just staged the largest known field trial for Miscanthus, a giant perennial grass. Their results indicate that using Miscanthus as an ethanol feedstock could significantly boost biofuel production in the U.S. while greatly reducing the acreage devoted to them.


Offsetting 20% of gas use with 9.3% of agricultural land
According to Stephen Long, a professor of crop sciences at UIUC, it would be possible to produce enough cellulosic ethanol with 9.3% of agricultural land to offset a fifth of our current gasoline consumption. By comparison, it would take 25% of current cropland to produce an equivalent amount of corn-based ethanol. Similar field trials conducted for switchgrass were disappointing: producing roughly the same amount of ethanol per acre as corn -- a result that glaringly contradicts the results I cited above.

A longer growing season and superior photosynthetic efficiency contribute to Miscanthus' high yield

The two principal reasons why Miscanthus yields more ethanol per acre than corn, Long explains, are that it makes green leaves 6 weeks earlier in the growing season and keeps them until late October. Corn leaves typically wither by the end of August. While it shares a similar growing season, switchgrass is much less efficient at photosynthesis; Miscanthus has a conversion efficiency of around 1% (1% of sunlight gets turned into biomass).
The main slogan of the program is: "Organic farming: Good for nature, good for you." However, even with that slogan the commission insists it is not claiming any health benefits for organics but rather supporting the growth of the organic sector. It’s an interesting concept that a government agency might try and support two different approaches to providing the same product in one sector — conventional and organic produce. Is there a conflict of interest here when these two products are competing for the same consumer monies?


The commission also has an established program supporting farmers who want to change from conventional to organic farming methods. And with projections such as those from The UK Soil Association - a 10% growth for sales of organic products this year, which it says is four to five times higher than for the general food market in a good year — it would seem to make good business sense for farmers to switch over.

Another Green Sunday...

Last week’s ripe tomatoes were great! But let’s check back with my heavenly tomato. Okay, this was last week:



And here’s today:








With two reddish ones on the vine and a freshly picked one in my kitchen, all I can say is—AWESOME!

Green-News: Friday 8.01.08

The move has left scientists, industry groups, and public advocates surprised and confused about how to carry on their work without this free information. The canceled program was the only one to make freely available to the public nationwide data on the amount of pesticides and fertilizers applied to U.S. farms. In May, USDA announced that it had published the last of its Agricultural Chemical Usage reports, which are based on detailed surveys of farmers’ chemical use, collected since 1990 by the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). In an unusual alliance, industry and environmental groups are lobbying USDA and Congress to restore the program, which costs $8 million out of an annual NASS budget of $160 million.

The program had many users and supporters in academia, industry, environmental and community groups, and government agencies. “The industry and the people who do dietary risk assessments in companies could not be more upset by this,” says Leonard Gianessi, director of the Crop Protection Research Institute at the CropLife Foundation, a nonprofit research center funded largely by CropLife America and other industry groups.
Starting Friday, the building's AC will be set at 77°F instead of its usual 72°F on workdays and the switched off on the weekends. To mitigate the expected heat -- not that 77°F is exactly sweltering -- members are encouraged to wear their national dress, suit jackets optional.


The pilot program is called Cool U.N. and it probably won't be very popular since the building is notoriously drafty and uncomfortable. Despite the fact that it was designed by a coalition of the world's top architects, the building is apparently an energy sinkhole. That's why the UN's environmental gurus have come up with the initiative -- it's also why the building is set to be renovated next year.
Over the past seven years, the Environmental Protection Agency has redefined its mission from fighting pollution to serving as a guardian angel for big business, energy companies and land developers. On every front, from undercutting state efforts to ignoring greenhouse gas emissions to opening public lands for exploitation, the agency charged with protecting the environment has sided against environmental protection.


Not surprisingly, the agency's political appointees would like to keep the many dedicated civil service employees from sharing that bad news with the press, Congress and the agency's internal investigators. An e-mail sent to managers of the EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance by division chief of staff Robbi Farrell admonishes them to forward all inquiries from the EPA inspector general, the congressional Government Accountability Office or journalists to a designated senior staffer. According to the e-mail, "Please do not respond to questions or make any statements."