Information of Interest, Jan/Feb 2011
1. U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) www.eia.gov – According to the EIA’s May 2010 Report, “International Energy Outlook 2010 with Projections to 2035,” energy-related carbon dioxide emissions will grow 43 percent from 2007 to 2035, assuming no policy changes. Sixty-seven percent of this increase from 30 to 42 billion metric tons of CO2 emissions will be driven by non-OECD member countries – countries not currently members of the Convention on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (www.oecd.org).
Key trends from 2007 to 2035 include:
2. U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado (www.usafa.af.mil) Contributed by Jennifer Elmore – Leaders at the Air Force Academy broke ground Nov. 1, 2010 for a 6-megawatt solar photovoltaic array, one of the largest solar PV projects in Colorado. The array is part of an energy transformation at the Academy, both physically and culturally, as officials seek to make the Academy a “Net Zero” installation by producing as much energy as it consumes. In so doing, the goal is to facilitate culture change within the Academy by example and through coursework that further emphasizes energy efficiency and energy conservation as strategic imperatives.
To assist with this cultural transformation, Academy officials have found ways to incorporate energy into the curriculum and to capitalize on on-going energy research. The dean of faculty has revamped or created several courses focused on energy technologies and sustainable engineering systems in the Civil and Environmental Department, the Mechanical Department and the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department. Many of these courses are cultivating cadet independent studies on topics such a green roofs, solar energy and ground source heating.
In addition to the ground-breaking for the PV array, Academy officials have multiple efforts in place to reduce demand and to increase supply. They recently completed a 173-kilowatt building-integrated photovoltaic array and have awarded contracts for another 300-kW BIPV system. Ground-source heat pumps have been installed at six facilities. A 75-kW waste-to-energy (WTE) gasifier is scheduled for installation later in the year, and a prototype anaerobic digestion WTE unit designed to turn food waste into methane will be built during fiscal 2011.
“With all these projects in play, the Air Force Academy is set to achieve significant financial and energy savings, potentially totaling $1.3 million annually through a combination of energy cost savings and estimated renewable energy certificate sales,” said Russell Hume, the Academy energy program manager, who is responsible for these projects. “When we achieve our goal to be a Net Zero facility, we will really be walking the walk on energy conservation.”
3. Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) www.nrdc.org – An agreement between Commonwealth Edison, environmentalists and regulators will result in massive savings for ratepayers and potentially eliminate the need for new dirty coal plants in the Chicago region. The agreement, inked on Nov. 18, 2010, between NRDC, the Environmental Law and Policy Center and other parties is a three-year plan to install energy-savings technologies that will save $497.7 million for ComEd customers and 16 million megawatt hours of electricity – that’s more power than the Fisk and Crawford coal plants in Chicago generated in the last three years.
“This agreement puts money back into ComEd customers’ wallets and helps to clean up skies over Illinois,” said Rebecca Stanfield, Senior Energy Advocate for NRDC. “Energy efficiency is the least expensive and cleanest way for ComEd to meet its customers’ energy needs, and that makes it the cornerstone of a clean energy future. The savings can go back into the local economy, rather than being wasted on buying more power than necessary from polluting power plants.”
A state law passed in 2007 requires ComEd and other utilities to submit energy savings plans to the Illinois Commerce Commission. The Environmental Law & Policy Center, NRDC, Citizens Utility Board, the Illinois Attorney General and the City of Chicago worked with ComEd to improve their initial plan, identifying opportunities to increase efficiency and, therefore, lower customers’ bills and reduce pollution.
Under the Illinois law, utilities began with a modest 0.2 percent of their annual sales being displaced with energy efficiency savings. This standard increases to 1 percent of sales in 2012, and will continue to increase until it reaches 2 percent of sales in 2015. Nineteen states have adopted similar energy efficiency portfolio standards, including several Midwestern states (Ohio, Michigan and Indiana) that followed the Illinois lead.
4. Environmental Working Group (EWG) www.ewg.org – Laboratory tests commissioned by EWG have detected hexavalent chromium, the carcinogenic “Erin Brockovich chemical,” in tap water from 31 of 35 American cities. The highest levels were in Norman, Okla.; Honolulu, Hawaii; and Riverside, Calif. In all, water samples from 25 cities contained the toxic metal concentrations above the safe maximum recently proposed by California regulators.
The National Toxicology Program has concluded that hexavalent chromium (also called chromium-6) in drinking water shows “clear evidence of carcinogenic activity” in laboratory animals, increasing the risk of gastrointestinal tumors. In September 2010, a draft toxicological review by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) similarly found that hexavalent chromium in tap water is “likely to be carcinogenic to humans.”
Despite mounting evidence of its toxic effects, the EPA has not set a legal limit for hexavalent chromium in tap water nationally and does not require water utilities to test for it. In 2009 California officials proposed setting a “public health goal” for hexavalent chromium in drinking water of 0.06 parts per billion (ppb) to reduce cancer risk. This was the first step toward establishing a statewide enforceable limit.
In 25 cities where EWG’s testing detected chromium-6, it was found in concentrations exceeding California’s proposed maximum – in one case at a level more than 200 times higher in Norman, Okla. (population 90,000). The other top five chromium-contaminated cities tested by EWG include: Honolulu, Hawaii (population 661,004); Riverside, Calif. (population 280,832); Madison, Wisconsin (population 200,814) and San Jose, Calif. (population 979,000).
At least 74 million Americans in 42 states drink chromium-polluted tap water, much of it in the cancer-causing hexavalent form. Chromium-6 is commonly discharged from steel and pulp mills as well as metal-plating and leather-tanning facilities. It can also pollute water through erosion of soil and rock.
5. Centre for Agricultural Bioscience International (CABI) www.cabi.org – The annual financial cost of non-native species to the British Economy is estimated to be £1.7 billion annually, according to a December 2010 report. “The Economic Cost of Invasive Non-Native Species to the British Economy,” was carried out by CABI for the Scottish Government, Defra and the Welsh Assembly Government, and it breaks down the effect on each country as follows:
The effect of the extent on control costs was investigated in five case studies: Asian long-horned beetle, carpet sea squirt, water primrose, grey squirrel and coypu. In all examples, early action provided a significant economic benefit compared to cost of management if the species were to become more widely established.
For example, with water primrose, a group of South American aquatic weeds which grow rapidly and can block waterways, it is estimated that current timely eradication will cost £73,000. This is significantly less than the estimated £242 million that it would cost if the plant was to become widely established as it has on the continent in countries like France and Belgium.
Roseanna Cunningham, Great Britain Minister for Environment and Climate Change, said: “We all know about the serious threat to our native wildlife from invasive non-native species, and this Report confirms the huge cost to businesses and to individuals in Great Britain every year. A better understanding of the negative impacts of invasive non-native species can help us raise awareness to help prevent introductions in the first place and to better respond to problems.
CABI is a non-profit science-based development and information organization established by a United Nations treaty-level agreement between 45 member countries. Each member has an equal role in the organization’s governance, policies and strategic direction, in addition to enjoying privileges and services relating to scientific expertise, products and resources. These include disease identification, capacity building and information products. The United States is not a member.
6. International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) www.iucn.org – The Serengeti-Masai Mara ecosystem in Africa, which hosts the largest wildlife migration known to man, is under attack from a noxious weed from Central America, commonly known as feverfew (Parthenium hysterphorus). If left unchecked it could threaten the continued migration of millions of animals across the plains every year, including 1.5 million wildebeest, 500,000 Thomson’s gazelle and 200,000 zebra.
The Serengeti-Mara ecosystem hosts approximately 70 large mammal species and some 500 different bird species in highly diverse habitats ranging from riverine forests, swamps, grasslands and woodlands. Researchers from the Centre for Agricultural Bioscience International (CABI) Africa and IUCN, based in Nairobi, Kenya, found the weed parthenium, during a recent survey, growing along parts of the Mara River and along some dirt tracks in the Masai-Mara National Reserve.
“Although this weed may look benign to most people it probably poses one of the most serious threats to the ecosystem, which is already under threat from illegal hunting, land conversion, fencing, disease and uncontrolled fires,” says Arne Witt, Invasive Species Coordinator, CABI Africa.
Parthenium has gained notoriety in Australia, India and Ethiopia where it was accidentally introduced with what many consider to be disastrous consequences. The weed, which can grow from seed to maturity in 4-6 weeks and has an ability to produce 10,000-25,000 seeds, is known to be allelopathic – meaning that it produces chemicals which inhibit the growth of other plants. If it invades natural pasture, it can reduce the amount of available forage to such an extent that carrying capacities of grazing animals can be reduced by up to 90 percent.
If allowed to grow without any weeding, it can reduce yields of crops, such as sorghum, by up to 97 percent. It is also toxic, which means that animals will not eat it unless they are starving or stressed, with fatal consequences. This weed also has impacts on human health – many people who come into direct contact can develop severe skin allergies, and pollen production by the plant can result in respiratory problems.
“Unless action is taken immediately to eradicate known infestations in the Masai-Mara National Reserve, it is not unrealistic to expect a drastic reduction in wildlife populations in the long term as the parthenium population rapidly expands as an invading species,” says Geoffrey Howard, IUCN’s Global Invasive Species Programme Coordinator. “It is, therefore, possible for a little green plant to transform one of the greatest spectacles on earth.”Issue No. 8, 2011
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