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Grist for the Windmill

An Anglo-Dutch consortium plans to build the world's tallest pair of offshore wind turbines this summer, in the North Sea one kilometer off England's northeast coast. The partners, which include oil giant Royal/Dutch Shell, hope the pilot project will pave the way for a potential $9.6 billion investment in the area, considered to be Europe's richest potential source of wind power. But the project's planners complained yesterday that the energy plans unveiled by the UK government earlier this week didn't include as much funding for renewable energy as had been expected. At present, just 2.3 percent of Britain's energy comes …

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Oh, We Got Trouble — With a Capital T and That Rhymes with P and That Stands for Population

Re: Daily Grist Dear Editor: What a great magazine! Now that I subscribe to the Daily Gist, I clutch my cuppa java as I pass through your cloud of gloom. Better gloom than darkness. However, I'm mystified that we don't hear more about the big P -- population. Why? All these summits, all this talk of global warming, fossil fuels, salmon runs, river and stream restoration, deforestation, toxic waste, disappearing species, yadda yadda yadda. Meanwhile, more and more people gobble up more food, fuel, forests, water, and resources of every sort, while creating sewage, impenetrable surfaces, factory waste, and so …

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The Mod Squad

Delegates from more than 130 nations on Saturday adopted the first global treaty regulating trade in genetically modified products, the first time that environmental concerns and trade rules have been reconciled in an international agreement. The treaty allows countries to bar imports of genetically modified seeds, crops, and animals, even if scientific studies have not yet determined that they are dangerous, a provision that the U.S. had opposed. The treaty does not address whether food containing genetically altered ingredients, like corn flakes made with GM corn, should be labeled as such on store shelves. And disputes over GM foods could …

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She Sells Carbon Credits By the Seashore

British oil giant Royal Dutch Shell today is launching an internal market to reduce the company's carbon emissions, an effort to combat climate change and promote energy efficiency. Under its new tradable emissions permit system, businesses within the Shell group must achieve an annual 2 percent carbon reduction, either by reducing their actual emissions or buying permits from other Shell businesses that are making greater than required reductions. The scheme is intended to help Shell meet its target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions 10 percent from 1990 levels by 2002. BP Amoco had previously introduced a similar system.

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Barking Up the Right Tree

U.S. Forest Service Chief Mike Dombeck said in a speech yesterday that the era of extensive road-building in national forests is over and that the administration would release a new proposal to close forest roads within a few weeks. Roads have gone from being a capital improvement to a liability, Dombeck told the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, and since the USFS budget only includes enough money to maintain about 17 percent of its roads, the agency is proceeding with a new plan that could ultimately result in closure of the rest. Dombeck said that road decommissioning and maintenance would …

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Compost-a-Roni, the San Francisco Treat

San Francisco this year is becoming the first major U.S. city to offer curbside recycling for food waste, one sign of a growing nationwide trend toward composting. Communities across the U.S. are finding it difficult to meet the recycling goals they set in the early 1990s, and some are now pushing composting as a way to cut back on waste sent to landfills. Michele Raymond studied 18 communities that had managed to meet 65 percent recycling rates and found that most of them credited composting for their success. In Monmouth County, N.J., the government has subsidized the sale of 5,000 …

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Cut the Crap

Congress could save taxpayers $50 billion by cutting environmentally harmful projects and subsidies, according to a report released yesterday by the Green Scissors coalition, which includes enviro and government watchdog groups. Among other egregious expenditures of public money, the coalition pointed to subsidies for hard rock mining, fossil-fuel research, and the oil, timber, and sugar industries. Only 11 Senators and eight House members rated a perfect score on fighting "polluters' pork," according to the report. GOP presidential contender John McCain, who prides himself on cutting pork and fighting special interests, was not one of them. Meanwhile, some enviros are wondering …

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Buffer the Ozone Slayer

California Gov. Gray Davis's (D) administration yesterday announced controversial new rules restricting use of the pesticide methyl bromide, which is highly toxic to humans and contributes to depletion of the ozone layer. The measures would expand required buffer zones around sprayed areas and require better public notification when the fumigant is used. The state was forced to impose the new regulations by a lawsuit that environmentalists won last year. Still, enviros say the new rules don't go nearly far enough to protect public health. Under an international treaty to protect the ozone layer, methyl bromide must be phased out from …

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