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Russia’s Lake Baikal under threat from massive lead and zinc mine

One-fifth of the world's freshwater could be under threat from heavy-metals pollution if a giant lead and zinc mine opens as planned upstream from Russia's giant Lake Baikal, the deepest lake in the world. Mine advocates say leaving the world's third-largest lead and zinc field unmined would be a waste of natural resources regardless of its location, but environmentalists, conservationists, and area business owners are concerned that high doses of heavy metals from the mine could mess with the lake's unique ecology and also discourage tourism. Lake Baikal is home to hundreds of unique species, many of them endemic to …



In San Francisco this Friday, the Long Now Foundation will host a talk by Peter Diamandis, founder and Chairman of the X Prize Foundation, on X-Prizes. Here's a YouTube taster. It got me thinking. Large prizes are great for stimulating the public's imagination, but do they make for good public policy? Take John McCain's proposal for a taxpayer funded $300 million dollar prize for a breakthrough auto battery. The market opportunity for a true battery breakthrough is already so enormous, it is hard to see how $300 million is a relevant incentive. I mean, if you invent that kind of …


U.S. bottled-water guzzling is slowing

Americans' seemingly insatiable thirst for bottled water seems to be slowing, according to new industry stats. Annual U.S. bottled-water consumption shot up nearly 46 percent between 2002 and 2007, to an average 29.3 gallons per person. But the Beverage Marketing Corporation predicts that bottled-water guzzling will grow only 6.7 percent in 2008, the smallest increase this decade. The editor of Beverage Digest isn't concerned: "If the economy improves and consumers begin to feel better, we're going to see at least some increase in the growth rate of bottled water again." Adds an industry spokesperson: "We have enjoyed meteoric growth in …


GOP platform: No ethanol mandate

Energy politics take a weird turn

Kate Sheppard mentioned it in her tireless coverage of the Republican convention, but it bears highlighting again: The official GOP presidential platform calls for an end to the biofuel mandate. Now, politics makes strange bedfellows, and sudden Republican opposition to biofuels stems largely from meat-industry shrieks about high grain prices. For example, Texas Gov. Rick Perry -- who learned crony capitalism at the knee of his mentor, G.W. Bush -- only found anti-ethanol religion after a bit of slap-and-tickle with his dear friend, the CEO of poultry giant Pilgrims Pride. However, the biofuel mandate is egregious. There are better ways …


Mooo-ve over, FDA

Consumers demand market rejection of food from cloned animals

Consumer market rejection seems to be the ongoing theme of U.S. food politics in the waning days of Bush's inept Food and Drug Administration. Given FDA's repeated failure to protect our nation's food supply or to respond quickly and appropriately to outbreaks of food-borne illnesses, consumers have turned to food companies and demanded that they now take the lead in safeguarding our nation's food. Public opposition to milk and meat from clones has caused 20 major food companies, restaurants, dairies, and supermarket chains to refuse to produce, use or sell food from clones. These companies have taken action despite FDA's …


Ford won’t sell 65-mpg diesel car in U.S.

The Ford Fiesta ECOnetic, a small, sporty five-seater that gets an impressive 65 miles per gallon, will the hit the road in November -- but only in Europe. "We just don't think North and South America would buy that many diesel cars," says Ford America President Mark Fields. The new generation of diesel cars, which are dramatically cleaner than old-school diesels and are at least 30 percent more fuel-efficient than gas-powered vehicles, haven't managed to shake Americans' longstanding aversion to the fuel: only 3 percent of cars in the U.S. are diesel-powered. But other automakers are betting that Americans can …


Suns going solar

Phoenix NBA team to add solar system to arena’s roof

Going solar is a slam dunk for the Phoenix Suns, who are installing a 196 kW solar system on their arena's roof. This installation was made possible by the state's Renewable Energy Standard and Tariff, which was implemented by the state's Corporation Commission and is currently under threat on several fronts. Arizona's primary was last Tuesday, and it appears that those would-be commissioners who were running on a platform of junking the renewable rules will not make it to the general election. Results here, blog item here. Barry Wong, who appears to have won the third spot on the GOP …


Fitter, happier, more productive

Conservative heavy-hitters discuss what makes for a safer world

Kate and I mostly spent our time at the RNC seeking out energy/environment-related events, but I wanted to go to at least a few on other subjects, just to see if our issues popped up anywhere outside their normal silo. In that spirit, on Wed. afternoon I attended a panel discussion called "Building a Better, Safer World: What Would a McCain Presidency Do?" The panelists: Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), McCain adviser (and lobbyist) Randy Scheunemann, Ambassador Richard Williamson, Ambassador (and trade lobbyist) Robert Portman, and Bud McFarlane, former National Security Advisor to President Reagan. That's a pretty heavy-hitting line-up, one …


Half of GM’s manufacturing plants to go “landfill-free” by 2010

Automaker GM is planning to make half of its 181 manufacturing plants worldwide "landfill-free" by 2011 through initiatives to reuse or recycle some 90 percent of its waste, according to USA Today. The not-reused, not-recycled portion of the waste would potentially be incinerated to produce energy. GM has yet to formally announce the program, but USA Today reports that the company already has 10 "landfill-free" plants in operation and a spokesperson told the paper that another 80 plants will likely meet the no-landfill-waste goal sometime in 2010. GM, along with other U.S. automakers, has been struggling financially lately as high …


Slow Food Nation: Whole Foods to pay up for tomatoes

Benitez of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers says deal imminent with Whole Foods

I'm a lame blogger when it comes to breaking news at conferences, when my brain typically reaches explosion point with all the information zooming in. I should have live-blogged this Saturday, while I was taking in Slow Food Nation's "Toward a new, fair food system" panel: Coalition of Immokalee Workers leader Lucas Benitez revealed that Whole Foods is on the verge of agreeing to pay an extra penny per pound for the Florida-grown tomatoes it buys. As part of its "Campaign for Fair Food," CIW is urging all major corporate buyers of Florida tomatoes to agree to the extra-penny-per-pound deal. …