Climate & Energy

Biofuels: good for agrochemical/GMO biz

GMO giant Monsanto wows Wall Street, consolidates its grip on South America

While debate rages on Gristmill and elsewhere about whether biofuels are worth a damn ecologically, investors in agribusiness firms are quietly counting their cash. As corn and soy prices approach all-time highs, driven up by government biofuel mandates, farmers are scrambling to plant as much as they can — and lashing the earth with chemicals to maximize yields. At a Wall Street meeting on Tuesday, genetically modified seed/herbicide giant Monsanto promised investors even-higher-than-expected profits in fiscal year 2008. The company expects to rake in $1.3-$1.4 billion in gross profit from its Roundup herbicide alone (Monsanto had been previously expecting to …

Lake Mead could run out of water by 2021, says study

There’s a 50-50 chance that the Arizona- and Nevada-bordering, human-made Lake Mead will become Dry Ditch Mead by 2021, according to a study to be published in the journal Water Resources Research. Oh, and that’s a conservative estimate, say the study authors, as is this one: By 2017, there’s an equally good chance that water levels in the reservoir could drop so low that the Hoover Dam would be incapable of producing hydroelectric power. Lake Mead provides water to thirsty cities including Los Angeles and Las Vegas, as well as H2O to agricultural areas. Coauthor Tim Barnett says he was …

A post-energy-bill agenda

Twelve simple things green groups can do about climate change

Hey, environmentalists! You passed the energy bill -- what're you gonna do now? Here are 12 things that could be undertaken with present resources:

At last, some climate progress

Japan says it can meet Kyoto goals

Reuters reports: Japan will be able to meet its greenhouse gas emissions limits agreed under the Kyoto Protocol through additional, mainly voluntary, agreements with industry, a government panel said. The measures will help Japan cut 37 million tonnes or more of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent a year, a joint panel on climate change under the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and the Ministry of Environment said in a final report approved on Friday. This is offered in the spirit of actually posting some climate progress now and then ... This post was created for ClimateProgress.org, a project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

Historical warm periods linked to increased insect activity

This news has us buggin': Historical warm periods have been linked with an explosion of insect activity, and not-so-distant future warm periods may very well see the same, says new research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Not only that, but elevated carbon dioxide levels may cause plants to produce fewer nutrients, so insects must gobble more foliage to mitigate their hunger — bad news for humans who wanted to eat those bug-devoured crops. Now where did we put our insect repellent?

Theo Jansen's creatures

Wind-powered autonomous artificial life

A friend of mine showed me this video last weekend, and I just wanted to show you all how freaking cool it is. It's a ongoing work of Dutch artist Theo Jansen, who's literally creating artificial creatures that can move on their own and survive autonomously on a beach. Wind-powered and updated using simulated genetic evolution ... well, just look!

Greenland study

Sea-level rise could be double IPCC projections

Last year, Nature Geoscience and Science (PDF) published major articles suggesting that the consensus projection for sea-level rise this century was far too low -- and could be as high as five feet. Now the Journal of Glaciology joins in with a remarkable analysis, "Intermittent thinning of Jakobshavn Isbræ, West Greenland, since the Little Ice Age" (PDF). The lead author, Beata Csatho from the University of Buffalo, explains implications of this work for the traditionally very simplified ice sheet models, such as those used by United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to make projections of sea-level rise:

Midwest refineries source more crude from tar sands; emissions will rise

Emissions from Midwest oil refineries are expected to jump by up to 40 percent in the next 10 years, thanks in large part to an industry-wide trend of sourcing crude oil from Canada’s tar sands. The sands produce petroleum of such poor quality that it requires more energy — and thus more pollution — to process it into usable fuel. The trend flies in the face of national and regional efforts to curb greenhouse gases, not to mention oil companies’ lip service to renewable energy and climate-change mitigation. “We take climate change very, very seriously,” says Bill Gerwing of oil …

London mayor triples fee for most-polluting cars entering city center

London Mayor Ken Livingstone tripled the fee drivers of the most-polluting vehicles will have to pay to enter the city center beginning in October, from about $16 to $49. The so-called congestion charge was introduced in 2003 in an effort to decrease traffic and greenhouse-gas emissions, encouraging Londoners and visitors to use public transportation instead of cars. Today’s changes to the congestion-fee program include exempting drivers of the most-efficient vehicles, including the Toyota Prius, from the charge. Another change would erase the exemption that had been in place for residents who live within the congestion zone, subjecting drivers of the …

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