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John Upton's Posts


Oregon bans some insecticides following bee deaths

Safari pesticide
Forestry Distributing
Banned in Oregon.

Bees and other insects can breathe a little easier in Oregon -- for now. The state has responded to the recent bumbleocalypse in a Target parking lot by temporarily banning use of the type of pesticide responsible for the high-profile pollinator die-off.

For the next six months, it will be illegal to spray Safari or other pesticides [PDF] containing dinotefuran neonicotinoids in the state.

Oregon's ban comes after more than 50,000 bumblebees and other pollinators were killed when Safari was sprayed over blooming linden trees to control aphids in a Wilsonville, Ore., parking lot. A similar incident in Hillsboro, Ore., was also cited by the state's agriculture department as a reason for the ban.

Oregon Department of Agriculture Director Katy Coba said in a statement [PDF] that she has directed her agency to impose the ban to help prevent further such "bee deaths connected to pesticide products with this active ingredient until such time as our investigation is completed. Conclusions from the investigation will help us and our partners evaluate whether additional steps need to be considered.”


U.S. will help electrify Africa, but will the energy be clean or dirty?

Obama in Cape Town
Stephen Koigi
Obama addressing an audience in Cape Town, South Africa, on Sunday.

President Obama said on Monday that it's "unacceptable" that more than two-thirds of sub-Saharan Africans don't have access to electricity, and he has a plan to help solve the problem. On Sunday, he unveiled a new Power Africa initiative intended to double electricity access in the region.

The initiative calls for more than $7 billion in U.S. funding over five years to help build new power plants in six African countries and bring electricity to more than 20 million households and businesses. It's also intended to help American companies get a foothold in Africa.

Obama introduced the program in a speech in South Africa on Sunday:

Now we’re going to talk about power — Power Africa — a new initiative that will double access to power in sub-Saharan Africa. Double it. We’re going to start by investing $7 billion in U.S. government resources. We’re going to partner with the private sector, who themselves have committed more than $9 billion in investment. And in partnership with African nations, we’re going to develop new sources of energy. We’ll reach more households not just in cities, but in villages and on farms. We’ll expand access for those who live currently off the power grid. And we’ll support clean energy to protect our planet and combat climate change.


Chinese wind power company charged with stealing American trade secrets


One of China’s biggest wind turbine manufacturers is accused of stealing software from an American firm, then using the ill-gotten trade secrets in turbines in the victim's own backyard of Massachusetts.

Massachusetts-based AMSC, which makes software and equipment that regulates the flow of electricity from wind turbines to the electrical grid, was allegedly betrayed by an employee of one of its subsidiaries. The U.S. Justice Department charges that the employee stole the software by downloading it to a computer in Austria, then sold it to Chinese company Sinovel, which had formerly been an AMSC customer. Justice has indicted Sinovel, two Sinovel executives, and the rogue AMSC employee.

The theft led to the loss of 500 jobs and $800 million, AMSC says. U.S. Attorney John Vaudreuil says it was "nothing short of attempted corporate homicide."


Centuries worth of CO2 emissions could be stored underground, but at what cost?

underground sign
Radoslaw Maciejewski / Shutterstock
We could store CO2 underground, though not in the London Underground.

We could liquefy and cram our carbon dioxide emissions into the ground for some 500 years before America's geologic basins started to overflow with the stuff.

That's according to a new assessment by federal scientists, who spent years scouring America for porous rocks thousands of feet beneath the ground that might be appropriate for carbon sequestration.

They studied 36 geologic basins that could be suitable and found that the best region for storing waste CO2 would be the Gulf Coast. From the Houston Chronicle:


In win for fish, oil companies allowed to abandon old rigs

For all the harm that the oil and gas industry inflicts on wildlife in the Gulf of Mexico, it does offer the marine ecosystem at least one big benefit. Offshore oil-drilling rigs serve as artificial reefs, providing shelter for animals and an anchor for plants, coral, and barnacles. Yet once a well is tapped, the federal government has required the drilling company to uproot its rig to help clear clutter that could obstruct shipping.

Following complaints from fishermen and conservationists, however, the Obama administration is easing those rules. It announced this week that it is making it easier for states to designate abandoned drilling infrastructure as special artificial reef sites.

Oil rig ecosystem
Chris Ledford, © Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
A barracuda hanging out at a Texas oil rig.

The move is a win-win. Fish, turtles, and other wildlife get to keep their underwater metropolises -- and drilling companies can save on the costs of rig removal. From Fuel Fix:


U.S. and World Bank might stop financing dirty coal plants

Coal in China
Hunter Hogan
Coal processing in China.

The World Bank says it cares about climate change, so why is it providing loans to help developing countries build coal power plants? Same goes for America's support for coal plants abroad.

In recognition of this glaring climate policy disconnect, both the World Bank and the Obama administration appear to be finally backing away from  financial support of such dirty energy enterprises.

From Bloomberg:

The World Bank plans to restrict its financing of coal-fired power plants to “rare circumstances,” according to a draft strategy that reflects the lender’s increased focus on mitigating the effects of climate change.

The Washington-based lender will help countries find alternatives to coal, according to the draft obtained by Bloomberg News which lays out the bank’s policy on lending to its member countries. The paper, which is subject to revision, describes universal access to energy as a priority for the World Bank’s mission to help end poverty.

The bank “will cease providing financial support for greenfield coal power generation projects, except in rare circumstances where there are no feasible alternatives available to meet basic energy needs and other sources of financing are absent,” according to the report. Greenfield is a term for a new facility. ...


Americans are more worried about North Korean nukes than climate change

north korea and nuclear bombAAAARRRRGGGHHHH North Korea and nuclear bombs and other countries and stuff!!!!

Americans are less concerned about this climate change thing than other people around the world.

The Pew Research Group this week released the results of a worldwide survey of 37,653 residents of 39 countries, revealing that just 40 percent of Americans view global warming as a major threat to their country.

Across all countries surveyed, by comparison, 54 percent view global warming as a major threat. Concern was highest in Latin America and lowest in the U.S., with concern among Middle East residents nearly as low as those in America.

From the survey's findings:

Concern about global climate change is particularly prevalent in Latin America, Europe, sub-Saharan Africa, and the Asian/Pacific region, but majorities in Lebanon, Tunisia and Canada also say climate change is a major threat to their countries. In contrast, Americans are relatively unconcerned about global climate change. Four-in-ten say this poses a major threat to their nation, making Americans among the least concerned about this issue of the 39 publics surveyed, along with people in China, Czech Republic, Jordan, Israel, Egypt and Pakistan.


Will dumping Australia’s climate-savvy prime minister help the climate?

Kevin Rudd, Australian Labor Party
Kevin Rudd is Australia's new prime minister, again. Now he has to defend that job from an opposition leader who once called climate science "crap."

In terms of climate policy, Australians face a choice between fairly good and downright evil in an upcoming federal election.

The face of evil belongs to climate skeptic Tony Abbott, leader of the opposition Liberal Party (which, in topsy-turvy Down Under fashion, is in fact conservative).

And the face of relative good is ... in some disarray at the moment. Power brokers in the Labor Party, which narrowly holds power in the country, this week stripped the prime ministership away from Julia Gillard and handed it back to former leader Kevin Rudd. They believe this move will help them win the election, which is tentatively scheduled for September.

The stakes are high. Australia is among the world’s worst per-person contributors to climate change. The country is a huge producer of coal, exporting a lot and consuming a good bit itself. And it's been suffering heavily from climate change in recent years, enduring epic heat, drought, wildfires, and floods.

But lately, the country been trying to mend its ways, and setting a global example in doing so. Over the last six years, under first Rudd and then Gillard, the Labor Party has introduced policies and taxes designed to battle and adapt to climate change. Reports are confirming that the new taxes and policies are doing what they were intended to do: curb power plant carbon emissions and accelerate investment in renewable energy.

But Labor's been flailing in the polls and weighed down by infighting. Rudd had been agitating for the top job for months, destabilizing the party. Now, after he was sworn in as prime minister on Thursday, Labor’s members of parliament are vying against each other for positions in his new cabinet, instead of focusing on their reelection campaigns.


EPA tells Ohio to stop keeping fracking secrets from first responders

He needs to know.

Ohio firefighters, cops, and local officials might soon learn a little bit more about the poisons that frackers are storing and injecting into the ground beneath their feet.

The U.S. EPA told the state that a 12-year-old Ohio law that lets the fracking industry conceal information from emergency-management officials and first responders violates federal law. From The Columbus Dispatch:

The state law, passed in 2001, requires that drilling companies share information about hazardous chemicals only with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, which is supposed to keep the information available for local officials.


L.A. launches nation’s largest solar rooftop program

Bits of a new solar power plant could go there. And there. And there and there and there and there and there.
Bits of a new solar power plant could go there. And there. And there and there and there and there and there.

The first small shoots of what will grow into a sprawling solar power plant have sprouted in Los Angeles.

L.A.'s Department of Water and Power is rolling out the country's biggest urban rooftop program, which will pay residents for solar energy they produce in excess of their own needs. That will give residents a reason to install more solar capacity on their roofs than they can use in their homes.

On Wednesday, the first solar-generated watts produced under the Clean L.A. Solar program came from the rooftop of an apartment complex in North Hollywood. From the L.A. Times:

The goal of the effort, the brainchild of the Los Angeles Business Council, is to generate 150 megawatts of solar electricity, or enough to power about 30,000 homes. The council hopes to attract investments totaling $500 million from a growing list of companies that want to invest in L.A.'s push to go green by setting up large clusters of rooftop solar panels.