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The Big Seep

Global warming could lead to release of more methane from seafloor A warming ocean could release more of the potent greenhouse gas methane in a vicious cycle that leads to more warming, says a new report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Petroleum and methane seep consistently from small cracks in the seafloor, but a study of ocean sediments near Santa Barbara, Calif., found that during the last two major warming periods, around 11,000 and 15,000 years ago, three times more oil and methane were released than average. The researchers hypothesize that undersea methane ice melt could …

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April Showers Bring April Flowers

Spring is springing earlier in Europe, study finds Across Europe, spring is arriving an average of six to eight days earlier than it did 30 years ago, according to new research published in the journal Global Change Biology. Scientists studied 125,000 sets of observations of 542 plant and 19 animal species in 21 European countries, and found that nearly 80 percent of all leafing, flowering, and fruiting is now happening earlier in the year. "Not only do we clearly demonstrate change in the timing of the seasons, but that change is much stronger in countries that have experienced more warming," …

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The Definition of Insanity

Bush administration will open 8 million Alaskan acres to oil drilling As only makes sense following a disaster in northern Alaska involving oil spills and corroded pipelines, the Bush administration next month plans to open 8 million northwestern Alaska acres to oil and natural gas development. The area, in the National Petroleum Reserve, contains "a significant amount of oil that will help decrease our dependence on imported oil," says Julia Dougan of the Bureau of Land Management, by which she meant, "dude, we're jonesing." Included are 373,000 acres near wetland-rich Teshekpuk Lake, which is also hunting grounds for native Inupiat …

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God Hates BP

BP hits more snafus in Prudhoe Bay Beleaguered oil giant BP has halted leak testing on pipelines in Alaska's Prudhoe Bay oil field after learning that workers may have been exposed to asbestos. Since a major spill in the oil field in early March, as many as 200 workers have been stripping insulation off of corroded pipelines to ready them for leak testing. Asbestos, which can cause lung disease or cancer if inhaled, was found in concentrations of 5 to 10 percent in the tarlike resin between the insulation and the pipe. Work will be suspended pending an assessment of …

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Target Practice

BP fires up carbon-offset program Oil giant BP, eager to show that it's Beyond (all the) Petroleum (it's leaked on the Alaskan tundra), has launched a carbon-offset program for drivers in the U.K. The new "targetneutral" website lets drivers log on to estimate their car's annual carbon dioxide emissions, then calculate how much they should shell out to offset that output. Donations go to five renewable-energy projects in India and Mexico, and if drivers registered with the program buy their gas (excuse us, petrol) at a BP station, the company will even match 'em. BP calculates that driving the average …

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How “merchant coal” is changing the face of America

 From his rolling green soybean fields above a slow river in eastern Iowa, Don Shatzer looks out over the farm where he was raised, across land he and his neighbors have farmed all their lives. Below him are the garden beds where his wife Linda grows organic vegetables to safeguard the family's health, and the farm pond and beach he built for the grandkids. A few miles to the west lies the city of Waterloo, with a population of about 66,000. The sky is clear and the southwest wind sweet on a humid summer day. Shatzer's land is some of …

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Be Careful What You Don’t Wish For

FBI investigates Illinois environmental activist Add Jim Bensman of Alton, Ill., to your ever-growing list of People the Feds Think You Should Fear. Mild-mannered Bensman is a coordinator with an environmental group (terror level yellow!). In late July, he attended an Army Corps of Engineers public meeting on the proposed construction of a fish-bypass channel for a Mississippi River dam. At the meeting, Bensman proposed that the Corps destroy the dam (terror level orange!!) -- an idea the Corps had already considered. A newspaper reported that Bensman "would like to see the dam blown up" (terror level red!!!). A week …

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Is It Frogs Next, or Locusts?

Warmer climate could lead to increased bubonic plague Ever feel like we live in End Times? Well, you may be right. Apparently, in coming years we can expect more bubonic plague -- yes, plague, as in "bring out your dead!" Researchers publishing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that a rise of just 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit in the springtime temperature led to a 59 percent increase in plague prevalence (currently, up to 3,000 cases are reported each year around the world). The researchers focused their study in Kazakhstan, where the primary host of the plague is …

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To Everything, Tern, Tern, Tern

Buzzards Bay wind farm faces tough obstacles Amidst the hype over the Cape Wind project in Nantucket Sound, developer Jay Cashman unveiled a proposal to erect up to 120 wind turbines in nearby Buzzards Bay. But a recent report by Massachusetts Secretary of Environmental Affairs Stephen Pritchard concludes that Cashman's project would violate state law and could threaten an endangered bird species. The law in question is the 35-year-old Ocean Sanctuaries Act, which prohibits the "building of any structure on the seabed or under the subsoil" in the area that Cashman hopes to develop. The bird in question is the …

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Damned If … OK, Just Damned

CFC alternatives contribute to global warming When signatories to the 1989 Montreal Protocol phased out ozone-depleting, heat-trapping chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in foams and refrigerants, most replaced them with more-ozone-friendly-but-still-heat-trapping hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). Too bad: HCFCs and HFCs will add the equivalent of 2 billion to 3 billion tons of CO2 to the atmosphere by 2015, according to the United Nations. "A massive opportunity to help stave off climate change is currently being cast aside," says Alexander von Bismarck of the nonprofit watchdog Environmental Investigation Agency. Climate-friendly refrigerant alternatives like ammonia and hydrocarbons are, unfortunately, more expensive and less energy-efficient. …

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