Information of Interest, Sep/Oct 2010
1. Fish-Killing Toxin Holds Promising Cancer Applications
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) – A powerful fish-killing toxin could have cancer-killing properties, according to collaborative research led by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s microbiologist Paul V. Zimba and NOAA chemist Peter Moeller. The toxin, called euglenophycin, has a molecular structure similar to an alkaloid from fire ant venom known to inhibit tumor development.
Laboratory tests have shown that even low concentrations of euglenophycin lead to a significant decrease in cancer cell growth and can kill cancer cells. Preliminary studies have demonstrated that the toxin is especially effective in fighting renal cancer. Future research will test whether it also can prevent the formation of tumors. This work arose from observations of a mysterious disease killing fish in the ponds of a commercial North Carolina aquaculture facility in 2002. More than 21,000 striped bass died in July and August with losses valued at more than $100,000.
“This preliminary work demonstrates the tremendous potential for discovery of novel and effective new treatments for a variety of human diseases, including cancer,” said Paul Sandler, Ph.D. and senior advisor to the NOAA administrator. “By studying freshwater and marine organisms, NOAA and its partners stand to make important gains for human health and well being.”
2. French President Announces Carbon Tax to Combat Global Warming
FRANCE 24 and Radio France Internationale – On Sept. 10, 2009 French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced plans to impose a new fuel tax next year on oil, gas and coal as part of a drive to combat global warming. The tax will not apply to electricity, which in France is largely generated by nuclear power, which does not emit greenhouse gases. The plan makes France the biggest economy in Europe to impose such a tax, called the “carbon tax” in France, on households and businesses, thus boosting Sarkozy’s “green” credentials ahead of the United Nations’ December climate change conference in Copenhagen.
“This is a significant effort,” said Sarkozy, adding that revenues from the new tax will be put back into taxpayers’ pockets through “green checks” and other tax cuts. “If things don’t change, it will be your children who pay the price.” The French President also announced plans for a “clean cars” program, which will offer a 5,000-euro bonus to people buying environmentally friendly cars.
In 1990 Finland was the first European country to introduce a carbon tax. It was followed by Sweden and Denmark.
3. Sustainability Takes the Floor
Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) – The Carpet and Rug Institute promotes positive environmental progress through a commitment to sustainability in its industry. CRI members have worked hard to establish the ANSI/NSF 140-2007 Sustainable Carpet Standard – the only one of its kind in the floor covering industry designed to create performance requirements for public health and for the environment. The CRI’s Seal of Approval carpet cleaning products, as well as its equipment testing and certification program, uphold high product care standards that ensure product sustainability. CRI supports work done by the Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE) organization, which promotes innovative ways to keep old carpet out of landfills and to transform it into new products. In 2008, 243 million pounds of post-consumer carpet were recycled, and 292 million pounds were diverted from landfills.
4. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Becomes Sustainable Leader
Candice Walters, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers HQ (USACE) – As the Army’s construction agent, the USACE is building energy-efficient, environmentally friendly sustainable facilities to meet future missions and to support soldiers and their families. USACE-built facilities meet the U.S. Green Building Council LEED Silver level. However, at Fort Carson, the 4th Infantry, 1st Brigade and Battalion Headquarters building earned LEED Gold certification – one level higher. Under USACE’s Omaha District direction, the design team and contractors used native plants, natural daylight, an interior courtyard and reflective, energy-efficient, blast-resistant windows to create a livable, sustainable building.
In Fallujah, Iraq, the USACE has been installing solar-powered lighting as part of its infrastructure reconstruction work to provide power, to conserve natural resources and to improve air quality through reduced air emissions. This sustainable measure also helps to limit the petroleum movement through war zones, which means less risk to U.S. troops as a result of fewer petroleum convoys. In Afghanistan the USACE has taken an innovative approach to providing electric power to remote mountain villages with nearby streams by installing micro-hydro power generators. They are simple to install and to operate, are run by available water and are inexpensive and sustainable.
Other noteworthy renewable energy projects are Fort Sill’s geothermal heating and cooling project, which will save 2,500 barrels of oil per year, and Fort Knox’s solar walls and rehabilitation shops, which reduce annual oil consumption by 2,400 barrels. At the Nebraska Ordnance Plant, a Formerly Used Defense Sites cleanup project, the USACE is employing green remediation. The Plant’s wind-powered turbine supplies 30 percent of a groundwater recirculation well’s power with an added benefit: The treated water irrigates crops.
5. Rising Acidity Could Trigger Shellfish Revenue Declines, Job Losses
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) – Changes in ocean chemistry – a consequence of increased carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from human industrial activity – could cause U.S. shellfish revenues to drop significantly in the next 50 years, according to a new study by WHOI researchers Sarah Cooley and Scott Doney. Intensive burning of fossil fuels and deforestation over the past two centuries have increased CO2 atmospheric levels by almost 40 percent. Oceans have absorbed about one-third of all human-generated carbon emissions, but CO2 buildup is pushing surface waters toward more acidic conditions.
This “ocean acidification” creates a corrosive environment for marine organisms such as corals, marine plankton and shellfish that build carbonate shells or skeletons. Mollusks – including mussels and oysters, which support valuable marine fisheries – are particularly sensitive to these changes. “Losses in primary revenue from commercial mollusk harvest – or the money that fishermen receive for their catch – could add up to as much as $1.4 billion by 2060,” said Cooley.
Reduced mollusk harvests, as well as losses of predatory fish and other species that depend on mollusks for food, could lead to economic hardships for fishing communities. “Ocean acidification will impact millions of people that depend on seafood and other ocean resources for their livelihoods,” said Doney.
6. Anglo-French Oil Company Threatened with Eviction by Amazon Tribes
Survival International, London — AIDESEP, a Peruvian Amazon Indians’ umbrella organization, has lodged an urgent appeal with the country’s Constitutional Tribunal to halt a giant Anglo-French oil project in “Block 67” of the Peruvian Amazon. AIDESEP fears that the project, owned by Perenco, could have catastrophic consequences for uncontacted tribes living in the area. The oil company was given the “go-ahead” to start work in Block 67 just 13 days after the Amazon’s “Tiananmen,” an indigenous rights protest near the town of Bagua, where more than 30 police and civilians were killed.
Perenco denies the uncontacted tribes’ existence inside Block 67; however, a British news exposé alleged a company contracted by the oil company withheld evidence of their existence. Perenco’s project has aroused anger among northern Peruvian Indian communities. They’ve held large-scale protests and blocked the River Napo to stop Perenco’s boats from entering Block 67.
“How shameful that Peru’s Indians have to resort to the courts to try to get Perenco and the government to listen to them. After the Bagua tragedy, the authorities promised to consult with indigenous people before pushing ahead with these massive projects. But, again, they’re simply ploughing on against the local people’s wishes,” said Survival International Director Stephen Corry.
7. Navy Continues Science Commitment in Marine Mammal Studies
Tracey Moriarty, Chief of Naval Operations Environmental Readiness Division – The U.S. Navy, NOAA and the Bahamas Marine Mammal Research Organisation (BMMRO) recently completed two studies that monitored marine mammal responses to military exercises. The studies were conducted April 20-May 20 on the Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center (AUTEC) in northern Bahamas and July 15-28 on the Southern California Offshore Range (SCORE) off Coronado, Calif. “These studies are a major focus of the Navy’s marine mammal research program, which is designed to understand the effects of man-made sound on marine mammals,” said Dr. Frank Stone, the Navy’s marine mammal program manager.
The whale tagging effort successfully deployed nine satellite tags on three different species, including three Blaineville’s beaked whales, a Cuvier’s beaked whale and five sperm whales. “The mere presence of beaked whales on a Navy range is counterintuitive to the perception of their reactions to sonar,” said David Moretti, principal investigator for the Naval Undersea Warfare Center’s (NUWC) Marine Mammal Monitoring Program. “Given that this is an active Navy range where sonar is used, you wouldn’t anticipate this species to be present in this particular location if you believed the popular press.”
BMMRO Director Diane Claridge explained: “Beaked whales are moving in and out of here, and one of the things I’m interested in is whether or not that movement is related to the activities taking place, such as the Submarine Commanders Course (SCC).” Although the team is still reviewing the data for this project, beaked whale monitoring during previous SCC events has shown a decline in their acoustic detections during active sonar exercises. Beaked whale detections increased following the end of the multi-day exercise, thus leading to a hypothesis that animals moved off the range during exercises. However, this remains to be tested, and the extent and distance of any movements remain unknown.
8. Denver International Airport Reduces Carbon Footprint
Denver International Airport (DIA) – Last year DIA opened a 2-megawatt solar farm close to the Jeppesen Terminal, which generates approximately one-half the power needed to run DIA’s “people-mover” train system between the terminal and 3 concourses. The innovative airport continues to reduce its carbon footprint and to promote environmental sustainability by planning to construct a new photovoltaic system to power its fuel-storage and fuel-distribution facility.
The $7 million, 1.6-megawatt solar project, located on 9 acres north of the airport’s airfield, is expected to provide 100 percent of the fuel farm’s electricity consumption. “We expect this project to reduce energy costs for our airline and cargo business partners over the 20-year term of the agreement,” said Aviation Manager Kim Day. “DIA has a widespread reputation as a ‘green’ airport, and this project is another example of our commitment to environmental responsibility.”
Day added her appreciation for the efforts of the Aircraft Service International Group, as well as for the 20 airline members of the DIA fuel committee, which includes chair Bob Sturtz, United Airlines’ managing director of strategic sourcing/fuels. The new system is scheduled for completion by the end of 2009.
9. China Greentech Initiative Delivers 2009 Report
China Greentech Initiative (CGTI) – The China Greentech Report 2009, the Initiative’s first deliverable, provides a cross-sector analysis of market and environmental issues facing China. The Report includes the country’s regulatory response, available technical solutions and key developmental challenges and opportunities to accelerate greentech market growth.
The information demonstrates China’s enormous market potential, that its government’s policy changes are a positive driver and that the country is innovating at the intersection of technology and commercial opportunity. The Report is distributed free of charge and can be downloaded after signing in at www.china-greentech.com or at www.centerforabetterlife.com under “Reports and Studies.”
This actionable roadmap is the collaborative product of more than 200 experts, and it critically reviews 7 major market segments: alternative transportation, clean water, cleaner conventional energy, cleaner industry, the electric power infrastructure, green buildings and renewable energy.
The Initiative’s founding partners are PricewaterhouseCoopers and the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai.