Oct 31, 2011

By the Numbers: 650 Percent prescription price gouging...

650 percent

The number of prescription drug shortages tripled between 2005 and 2010. Besides having serious consequences for people's health and well-being, drug shortages drive vendors to charge outragous prices for drugs that are normally affordable when in stock. One report found that price-gouging vendors mark up prices on drugs in short supply by 650 percent, on average.

Another report about these “grey market vendors”—companies that inflate prices of drugs running in short supply—found that a leukemia drug whose typical contract price is about $12 per vial was being sold at $990 per vial. At the extreme, a drug used to treat high blood pressure that was normally priced at $25.90 was being sold at $1,200 due to a drug shortage.

Only a very small number of drugs are affected by such shortages, but for many patients, changing medications may be the difference between getting healthier and getting sicker. Drugs affected by shortages include cancer treatments, anesthesia drugs, and other medications that are critical to the treatment and prevention of serious diseases and life-threatening conditions.

Today, President Obama signed an Executive Order that will help prevent shortages that lead to this type of price gouging. The order directs the Food and Drug Administration to expand reporting about situations that might lead to drug shortages, and also to work with the Department of Justice to investigate illegal price gouging...

Source: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2011/10/31/numbers-650-percent

What’s Choking U.S. Troops? Feds Have No Idea | Danger Room | Wired.com

In a 2010 study of 80 soldiers who struggled to run two miles, half of them were huffing and puffing because of undiagnosed bronchiolitis.

And the feds have no idea why.

The military’s widespread use of open-air burn pits — massive heaps of Styrofoam, human waste and plastic water bottles, in flames around the clock — seemed to be the most obvious answer.

But results of a study published today by the Institute of Medicine, and commissioned by the Department of Veterans Affairs, are frustratingly inconclusive — largely because the military didn’t collect adequate data for researchers to do their jobs.

The team set out to determine whether the burn pits used to incinerate waste at military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan were culpable for the increased prevalence of respiratory, cardiovascular and neurological ailments afflicting recent veterans. But what they know after all that research is essentially what they knew at the study’s outset. First, that more and more troops are complaining of chronic health problems. And second, that the air quality in both combat zones was pretty awful to begin with.

Since 2001, cardiovascular problems among military personnel have soared from 65,520 to 91,013 in 2010. Neurological conditions have more than tripled, going from 9,688 to 32,667.

Some troops are so sure that burn pits caused their illnesses, they’ve already sued the contractors responsible for them: Close to 1,000 are currently in litigation against megaliths KBR and Halliburton, which were charged with overseeing some pits.

But burn pits aren’t the only suspect: With dust storms a common occurrence, soldiers spent plenty of time choking on cloudy air in Iraq and Afghanistan, which the report notes might be enough to cause “long-term health effects.” Not to mention that much of the dust was laden with neurotoxic elements, including chromium and iron.

Food Insecurity on the Rise (Infographic) : TreeHugger


Food insecurity rose from 10.1% to 14.7% between 1999 and 2009. This means that the number of households that had trouble getting enough food for the family rose by 4.6%. While that took a slight dip to 14.5% in 2010, it is still far too high. So who is going hungry, and where? An infographic from GOOD spills the details.


The reasons behind food insecurity include worry that food would run out, having to skip meals or eat less that one should, going hungry and losing weight, and eating unbalanced meals, among others.

Food insecurity has many causes -- poverty and distribution of food are two of them. Other causes that we cover routinely on TreeHugger include the lack of access to diverse and locally grown crops and the sheer amount of food wasted every year for no good reason.

In fact, the impact of food waste in the US equates to 1/4 of all freshwater consumption and 300 million barrels of oil a year. And this is in addition to all the empty stomachs that should not be empty when so much perfectly good food is going into dumpsters -- a problem which has led to the trend of dumpster diving as a method of shopping, even for those with a steady income.

Imagine if we had a proper distribution of wealth and food. Perhaps that 14.5% would dip back down to 1999 levels and lower. However, the frightening reality is that these numbers are more likely going to get worse, not just based on economics but on the health of the planet as well. Food security is in the grip of global climate change as we struggle to adapt to changing weather patterns, but also in the grip of humans as we try to reclaim biodiversity in agriculture for crop health, and find new ways to recover the health of badly mismanaged soil. That 14.5% of households experiencing food security is a number we must keep our eye on.

These two images are just a piece of the pie, so to speak. Check out the full infographic on GOOD.

Clean Energy Takes Political Hit In Wisconsin | EarthTechling

The Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance unveiled a new report demonstrating the cost-savings and job-creation potential of Focus on Energy, Wisconsin’s energy efficiency program. According to this report – recently announced at the Wisconsin Energy Expo in Madison – expanding funding for this program to levels recommended by the state’s Public Service Commission (PSC) in 2010 could create as many as 14,600 new jobs and save Wisconsin homeowners and businesses as much as $946 million on their energy bills.

This report comes at at time when renewable energy and energy efficiency policies have faced significant setbacks in Wisconsin, as a legislative committee voted in March to suspend PSC 128, a rule package that creates uniform statewide standards for the development of safe wind farms in the state. This suspension has created a climate of regulatory uncertainty that drove several wind developers out of the state, costing Wisconsin an estimated 950 jobs, clean energy advocates say. And – as if that weren’t enough bad news – the state legislature’s Joint Finance Committee voted in May to eliminate a previously approved funding increase for Focus on Energy that was expected to create thousands of green jobs.

wind turbine

image via Wikimedia Commons

“Clean energy and energy efficiency businesses hold the potential to create thousands of new jobs and be a bright spot in today’s otherwise sluggish economy. Unfortunately, we’ve been moving in the wrong direction this year,” said Keith Reopelle, senior policy director for Clean Wisconsin, in a statement. Reopelle said that if Gov. Scott Walker and legislative leaders are serious about creating 250,000 new jobs, they need to strengthen clean energy and energy efficiency policies.

The Wisconsin Energy Expo featured Wisconsin-based wind turbine and solar product manufacturers, utilities and companies that specialize in making homes and businesses more energy efficient. It took place across from the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison, and legislators were invited to attend.


Beacon Power, Backed by U.S. Loan Guarantees, Files Bankruptcy had sought to avoid the fate of Solyndra…

From BloombergBeacon Power Corp., an energy- storage company that received $43 million in backing from the U.S. program that supported failed solar-panel maker Solyndra LLC, filed for bankruptcy after struggling to raise private financing.

The money-losing company, which makes flywheels that manage energy moving through a power grid, had sought to avoid the fate of Solyndra…

“The current economic and political climate, the financing terms mandated by DOE, and Beacon’s recent delisting notice from Nasdaq have together severely restricted Beacon’s access to additional investments through the equity markets,” Chief Executive Officer F. William Capp said in papers filed yesterday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Delaware.

Beacon, based in Tyngsboro, Massachusetts, listed assets of $72 million and debt of $47 million in its Chapter 11 petition. Two affiliates also entered court protection.

Beacon’s first grid-scale plant, with 200 flywheels, began operating in January. The 20-megawatt facility in Stephentown, New York, was funded using the $43 million Energy Department loan guarantee issued in August 2010. About $39.1 million is currently due under the loan, Capp said.

See where you measure up in the world’s population

See where you measure up in the world’s population

Obama to sign executive order to address prescription-drug shortage

President Obama will sign an executive order Monday instructing the Food and Drug Administration to address a growing shortage of prescription drugs that are used to treat cancer and other diseases, a White House official said.

The order is the latest in a series of actions that the Obama administration has announced over the past week that do not require congressional approval. The White House began taking the smaller-scale initiatives after the Senate blocked the president’s $447 billion American Jobs Act.

Read full article >

The power of manure - MIT

Anaerobic digesters provide a win-win opportunity for agriculture and energy.

Energy...What can make a dent? - MIT News Office

With the world’s energy needs growing rapidly, can zero-carbon energy options be scaled up enough to make a significant difference? How much of a dent can these alternatives make in the world’s total energy usage over the next half-century? As the MIT Energy Initiative approaches its fifth anniversary next month, this five-part series takes a broad view of the likely scalable energy candidates.
Atbany given moment, the world is consuming about 14 terawatts (trillions of watts) of energy — everything from the fuel for our cars and trucks, to wood burned to cook dinner, to coal burned to provide the electricity for our lights, air conditioners and gadgets. 

To put those 14,000,000,000,000 watts in perspective, an average person working at manual labor eight hours a day can expend energy at a sustained rate of about 100 watts. But the average American consumes energy (in all forms) at a rate of about 600 times that much. “So our lifestyle is equivalent to having 600 servants, in terms of direct energy consumption,” says Robert Jaffe, the Otto (1939) and Jane Morningstar Professor of Physics at MIT.

Of that 14 terawatts (TW), about 85 percent comes from fossil fuels. But since world energy use is expected to double by 2050, just maintaining carbon emissions at their present rate would require coming up with about 14 TW of new, non-carbon sources over the next few decades. Reducing emissions — which many climate scientists consider essential to averting catastrophic changes — would require even more.

According to Ernest J. Moniz, the Cecil and Ida Green Distinguished Professor of Physics and Engineering Systems and director of the MIT Energy Initiative, a widely cited 2004 paper in Science introduced the concept of “wedges” that might contribute to carbon-emissions reduction. The term refers to a graph projecting energy use between now and 2050: Wedges are energy-use reductions that could slice away at the triangle between a steadily rising line on this graph — representing a scenario in which no measures are taken to curb energy use — and a horizontal line reflecting a continuation of present levels of energy usage, without increases. 

Energy wedges infographic
INFOGRAPHIC: 'Wedges' to reduce emissions
The authors of the 2004Science paper proposed a series of wedges, each representing about two terawatts of energy savings. (Others have since refined this model, now referring to anything that can save at least one terawatt as a wedge).

Of course, even eliminating the triangle altogether by holding energy usage at current levels would not reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that have been steadily heating up the planet; it would simply stabilize emissions at present levels, slowing the rate of further growth. But most analyses, such as those by MIT’s Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change, indicate that merely stabilizing emissions still presents a better-than-even chance of triggering a rise in global temperatures of at least 2.3 degrees Celsius by 2100, an amount that could lead to devastating changes in sea level, as well as increased patterns of both flooding and droughts. Preventing such serious consequences, most analysts say, would require not just stabilizing emissions but drastically curtailing them — in other words, finding additional wedges to implement.

In the Science paper, authors Stephen Pacala and Robert Socolow of Princeton University listed 15 possible wedges: energy-saving technologies to chip away at the triangle. (The paper was recently updated by Socolow, in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, to reflect the years that have passed since the initial publication and the lack of any net reductions so far). While there are indeed technologies that can contribute to reductions on the order of terawatts, Moniz says Pacala and Socolow’s analysis is “not necessarily very realistic,” and “they made it sound like implementing one of these wedges is too easy.” In fact, every one of the options has its own difficulties, Moniz says.

Read more at MIT: 

Life in drought: Parched Texas town seeks emergency fix

Reuters: No one drinks the tap water, which is unbearably briny as the lake dries up. After one of the hottest summers on record, the lake that is the lone water supply and main recreational draw in this tiny West Texas town is more than 99 percent empty. Robert Lee, which is a two-hour drive east of Midland, has received only about six inches of rainfall this year, half the normal amount. It is the worst water stitch the town has been in at least since the lake, E.V. Spence Reservoir, was created in...

United States: Catastrophic Drought in Texas Causes Global Economic Ripples

New York Times: — The drought map created by University College London shows a number of worryingly dry areas around the globe, in places including East Africa, Canada, France and Britain.

But the largest area of catastrophic drought centers on Texas. It is an angry red swath on the map, signifying what has been the driest year in the state’s history. It has brought immense hardship to farmers and ranchers, and fed incessant wildfires, as well as an enormous dust storm that blew through the western Texas city of Lubbock in the past month.

“It’s horrible,” said Don Casey, a rancher in central Texas who sold off half his cattle after getting only about two inches of rain over a one-year stretch and may sell more. “Even if it starts raining, it’s going to take so long for the land to recover”

Economists at the Texas Agrilife Extension Service calculated in August that the drought’s cost to Texas agriculture had reached $5.2 billion . The losses have only increased since then.

Chemical Firms Report Carbon Management Progress

Chemical Firms Report Carbon Management ProgressSome 26 percent of major chemical companies now report top-level carbon management strategies, according to a survey by IT firm Computer Sciences Corporation and Chemical Week magazine. This figure is up from 15 percent in 2010, according to the 2011 Sustainability and Compliance Survey, released on Nov. 2. The survey also shows a sharp year-on-year [...]

Rising antibiotic use on farms prompts renewed push for federal restrictions.

Public health advocates are renewing their push for stronger restrictions on antibiotics in food production after a Pew Health Group analysis of federal data found that their use was up 6.7 percent in 2010.

The cancer germ.

When Robert Holt started tearing apart colorectal tumours two years ago, he was looking for evidence of microbes at work behind the scenes. He never expected his team would find the tissue crawling with a germ linked to gum disease.

No anthrax vaccine testing on children _ for now.

Should the anthrax vaccine be tested in children? It will be a while longer before the government decides.

Old chemicals are back in battle against weeds.

As farmers wage war on a worsening weed problem, they are being forced to enlist the aid of chemicals they once virtually abandoned.

Since 1996, Monsanto's Roundup weed-killing system has become the dominant approach in agriculture, changing the way American farmers grow commodity crops. In the past several years, though, American farmers have increasingly reported that glyphosate, the key ingredient in Roundup, isn't killing weeds. So once-popular chemicals such as "2, 4-D" and "dicamba" again have been called to duty.

"It's really ironic that in this day and age of genetic engineering we're going back to a herbicide from the 1940s," said Dean Riechers, an associate professor of weed physiology at the University of Illinois, referring to the chemical "2, 4-D." "It's the oldest herbicide we have, and it's going to become really popular again."

The ineffectiveness of glyphosate has left companies scrambling to come up with other options, but some farmers and environmentalists are concerned about health and environmental risks.

"There's a big push to come up with something new, and it's necessary," said Steve Smith, director of agriculture for Red Gold, an Indiana-based tomato grower and processor. "Monsanto did a terrible job with (stewardship of) glyphosate. They said: That's the only thing you need, on soybeans, on corn. It was cheap and easy, and that's all anyone used."

Smith, who testified in Congress, warning against 2, 4-D and its related weed killer, dicamba, is launching a nationwide campaign against the industry's efforts. His company, he claims, lost $1 million in revenue because of dicamba contamination.

"It's an entire fiasco," Smith said. "But now that it's here, we have to figure out how to fix it."

The industry is counting on that fix.

"The glyphosate system revolutionized agriculture," said Kenda Resler-Friend, of Dow AgroSciences, a Monsanto competitor. "But anything that's been used that much, it puts a lot of pressure on it."

Read more: http://www.stltoday.com/business/local/article_0d67a8bb-57b0-585b-9acb-9d924165255e.html

Scientist questions hexavalent chromium study.

A scientist asked to review the validity of Pacific Gas & Electric Co. groundwater sampling in Hinkley, CA, said that the methods have produced data that is "completely worthless."

California's New Green Tax - WSJ.com

Wall Street Journal editorial page:

It may be time for California to formally apply for membership in the European Union. Its taxing, borrowing and regulatory policies are already more in line with the southern tier of Euroland than with other U.S. states, and the Golden State has taken another lurch in the Euro-direction by becoming the first jurisdiction in the nation to adopt a full-scale cap-and-trade tax to combat global warming…

But evidently high-minded California—with 2.1 million people already out of work and with the nation’s second highest jobless rate at 11.9%—will. The job cost will be paid not in the tony salons of Hollywood but in the working class neighborhoods of Torrance and Fresno.

Read the full WSJ editorial

What If We Paid Off The Debt? The Government Report (repost)

Planet Money has obtained a government report outlining what once looked like a potential crisis: The possibility that the U.S. government might pay off its entire debt.

It sounds ridiculous today. But not so long ago, the prospect of a debt-free U.S. was seen as a real possibility with the potential to upset the global financial system.

We recently obtained the report through a Freedom of Information Act Request. You can read the whole thing here. (It's a PDF.)

The report is called "Life After Debt". It was written in the year 2000, when the U.S. was running a budget surplus, taking in more than it was spending every year. Economists were projecting that the entire national debt could be paid off by 2012.

Graphic showing actual government debt vs. projected debt

This was seen in many ways as good thing. But it also posed risks. If the U.S. paid off its debt there would be no more U.S. Treasury bonds in the world.

"It was a huge issue ... for not just the U.S. economy, but the global economy," says Diane Lim Rogers, an economist in the Clinton administration.


The U.S. borrows money by selling bonds. So the end of debt would mean the end of Treasury bonds.

But the U.S. has been issuing bonds for so long, and the bonds are seen as so safe, that much of the world has come to depend on them. The U.S. Treasury bond is a pillar of the global economy.

Banks buy hundreds of billions of dollars' worth, because they're a safe place to park money.

Mortgage rates are tied to the interest rate on U.S. treasury bonds.

The Federal Reserve — our central bank — buys and sells Treasury bonds all the time, in an effort to keep the economy on track.

If Treasury bonds disappeared, would the world unravel?

Read full and listen at: 

Ohio Emergency Responders Stage Mock Zombie Invasion

"An Ohio Emergency Management Agency staged a mock zombie attackusing more than 225 volunteers dressed as zombies at an Ohio college. 'Organizers hoped the theme would attract more volunteers than previous simulations of industrial accidents or train crashes,' the AP reports, quoting a spokesman for the agency as saying that 'People got zombie fever here in Delaware.' The exercise included decontamination procedures for hazardous materials, and was inspired by an 'emergency preparedness' post on the CDC web site citing the popular fascination with zombies. Now, 'Dozens of agencies have embraced the idea,' the AP reports, 'spreading the message that if you're prepared for a zombie attack, you're prepared for just about anything.'"Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Fish Evolve Immunity To Toxic Sludge

"Fish in the Hudson River and the harbor in New Bedford, Mass., haveevolved resistance to PCBs. In the Hudson, a species of tomcod has evolved a way for a very specific protein to simply not bind to PCBs, nearly eliminating the toxicity. In New Bedford, the Atlantic killifish has proteins that bind to the toxin (just as they do in mammals) but the fish aren't affected despite high levels of PCBs in their cells. Why the killifish survive is a mystery.Read more of this story at Slashdot.

The Next Big Thing: It's Not Alternative Energy, It's Traditional Energy Through the Miracle of Frac

From the Bloomberg editorial "Energy Revolution Keeps Carbon on Top," by Nathan Myhrvold, former chief strategist and technology officer at Microsoft and the founder/CEO of Intellectual Ventures:

"A remarkable thing happened in Silicon Valley during the past decade. Venture capitalists and entrepreneurs set their sights on clean energy as the Next Big Thing. They audaciously hoped to reinvent energy by harnessing the incredible innovation that had transformed information technology and biotechnology. 

Some of the best venture capitalists in the business detached from their computing roots and focused on energy startups. The result was a staggering surge of capital into clean-energy technologies. Worldwide, from 2006 to 2010, about $535 billion in venture capital, private equity and initial public offerings as well as mergers and acquisitions flowed into 4,236 clean-tech businesses, according to a recent analysis by GlobalData.

Venture-capital investing is inherently high-risk, so it shouldn’t surprise or bother anyone that many of these startups failed -- some rather spectacularly. Solyndra, the solar-cell company, for example, went bankrupt even after receiving a $535 million in loan guarantees from the U.S. Energy Department. But similar failures happened during the dot-com bubble. Remember pets.com and its infamous sock-puppet TV ads?

What is worrying is that almost a decade of energy investing hasn’t produced any home runs -- no green-energy equivalents of eBay, Amazon, Google or Facebook. The modest, incremental advances we have seen don’t perceptibly move the needle on the energy problem.

In the meantime, however, a real revolution has happened in traditional energy -- one that poses a serious challenge to companies and investors betting on alternative energy. This breakthrough is arguably one of the greatest advances in energy production since the 1960s. And it came not from a Silicon Valley company, or from MIT or Stanford, but from George Mitchell, the son of a Greek goatherd who immigrated to the U.S.

After graduating from Texas A&M, Mitchell tinkered with a variety of long-known techniques that had never been used in combination. One of these was horizontal drilling, which originated in the 19th century, was adapted for oil production by the Soviets in the 1930s and was perfected by oil drillers in the 1980s. A second idea was to inject fluid into the rock to fracture it into lots of pieces, thus allowing the gas and oil inside to flow more easily. 

A third technique that Mitchell tried was adding sand to the water to help prop open the cracks that formed in the rock. Together these approaches, collectively called hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” allowed drillers to inexpensively recover gas from tight shale rock.

Not so long ago, many people believed that the cost of oil and gas would rise indefinitely, thus supporting the market for alternatives. Mitchell’s miracle has changed that calculus, much to the chagrin of the Silicon Valley venture capitalists who caught the green-energy bug."
Read on 

GE Breakthrough Aims to Cut Solar Costs in Half

... GE engineers have developed a system that aims to bring installation costs from the current $6.50 per watt to just $3. At that price, the savings provided by the panels would more than offset the expense of mounting them on the roof.

Korman's solution is elegantly simple. "Right now, solar panel arrays are essentially high-voltage systems," he says. In such a system, the panels are linked in a row like rail cars and feed 600 volts or more into a single high-voltage cable.

To handle all this voltage, home owners must hire specially trained installation workers, buy equipment switching the direct electrical current generated by the panels to the 120-volt alternating current used by most home appliances, and install special wiring.

But GE's engineers have found a solution to get around this problem and do it cheaply. They've built solar panels that can be linked in such a way that the output is socket-ready alternating current.

They've also designed a standard installation kit so that the array can be assembled by an ordinary roofing contractor in half a day, as opposed to the two days it takes at the present. Korman says that the system has 60% fewer components than the current high-voltage kits. His goal is to slash installation costs by half and cut energy waste. "It's is going to be good for 25 years," he says.

GE has built a working prototype of the system and Korman's engineers are exploring next commercial steps with other GE businesses.

GE is one of the largest investors in renewable energy. Last week the company announced plans to build a new plant near Denver, Colorado, producing high-efficiency thin film solar panels. The $300 million investment will create 355 high-tech manufacturing jobs. The company will also hire 100 new researchers at the Niskayuna research center.

The U.S. solar energy market stood at $4 billion in 2010. U.S. installed solar capacity is expected to nearly triple to 4.5 gigawatt in 2015.

Fukuoka City's Landfill Technology as New Method for CDM

Fukuoka City Environmental Agency and Fukuoka University announced on July 26, 2011, that their jointly developed landfill technology to "improve current landfill sites with 'semi-aerobic landfill structure (Fukuoka method)'" was accredited as a new method for Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), as defined in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This new landfill technology is the world's first accredited method to control methane emissions at landfill sites.

"Semi-aerobic landfill structure (Fukuoka method)" refers to a mechanism whereby leachate (waste water) is quickly removed from waste materials, allowing the inflow of air by installing perforated collection pipes and vertical perforated gas venting pipes at the bottom of the landfill. As the outlet of the perforated collection pipe is always open to air, by using internal fermentation heat, air flows naturally, without the need for an external energy source.

By maintaining aerobic conditions in the waste bed interior, the Fukuoka Method accelerates the decomposition of waste materials, improves leachate water quality and inhibits the emission of methane gas. At present, because most of the world's landfill sites, including those of developing countries, are anaerobic landfills, the Fukuoka Method will enable substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.


Beijing air pollution 'hazardous': US embassy

Air pollution in Beijing reached "hazardous" levels on Monday, the US embassy said, as thick smog blanketed the city for the third day running, forcing the closure of highways and cancellation of flights.

The Chinese capital is one of the most polluted cities in the world, mainly due to its growing  -- much of which is still fuelled by coal-fired power stations -- and the high number of cars on the road.

A "hazardous" rating by the US embassy, whose evaluation of the city's quality often differs markedly from the official Chinese rating, is the worst on a six-point scale and indicates the whole population is likely to be affected.

Read on from Source: http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-10-beijing-air-pollution-hazardous-embassy.html

Oct 30, 2011

Scientists today The Mail on Sunday can reveal that a leading member of Prof Muller’s team has accused him of trying to mislead the public by hiding the fact that BEST’s research shows global warming has stopped. | Mail Online

Professor Richard Muller, of Berkeley University in California, and his colleagues from the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperatures project team (BEST) claimed to have shown that the planet has warmed by almost a degree  centigrade since 1950 and is warming continually. 

Published last week ahead of a major United Nations climate summit in Durban, South Africa, next month, their work was cited around the world as irrefutable evidence that only the most stringent measures to reduce carbon dioxide emissions can save civilisation as we know it.

Hot topic: The plight of polar bears captures the hearts of many, but are the ice caps still shrinking?

Hot topic: The plight of polar bears captures the hearts of many, but are the ice caps still shrinking?

It was cited uncritically by, among others, reporters and commentators from the BBC, The Independent, The Guardian, The Economist and numerous media outlets in America.

The Washington Post said the BEST study had ‘settled the climate change debate’ and showed that anyone who remained a sceptic was committing a ‘cynical fraud’.

Scientist whose climate change research on polar bears was cited by Al Gore will face lie detector test over 'integrity issues'

Butb today The Mail on Sunday can reveal that a leading member of Prof Muller’s team has accused him of  trying to mislead the public by hiding the fact that BEST’s research shows global warming has stopped.

Prof Judith Curry, who chairs the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at America’s prestigious Georgia Institute of Technology, said that Prof Muller’s claim that he has proven global warming sceptics wrong was also a ‘huge mistake’, with no  scientific basis.

Prof Curry is a distinguished climate researcher with more than 30 years experience and the second named co-author of the BEST project’s four research papers.

Her comments, in an exclusive interview with The Mail on Sunday, seem certain to ignite a furious academic row. She said this affair had to be compared to the notorious ‘Climategate’ scandal two years ago.

Poles apart: Former sceptic Prof Richard Muller (left) says the latest findings settle the climate debate once and for all. But Prof Judith Curry says such a claim is 'a mistake'
Poles apart: Former sceptic Prof Richard Muller (left) says the latest findings settle the climate debate once and for all. But Prof Judith Curry says such a claim is 'a mistake'

Poles apart: Former sceptic Prof Richard Muller, left, says the latest findings settle the climate debate once and for all. But Prof Judith Curry says such a claim is 'a mistake'

Like the scientists exposed then by leaked emails from East Anglia University’s Climatic Research Unit, her colleagues from the BEST project seem to be trying to ‘hide the decline’ in rates of global warming.

In fact, Prof Curry said, the project’s research data show there has been no increase in world temperatures since the end of the Nineties – a fact confirmed by a new analysis that The Mail on Sunday has obtained.

‘There is no scientific basis for saying that warming hasn’t stopped,’ she said. ‘To say that there is detracts from the credibility of the data, which is very unfortunate.’

However, Prof Muller denied warming was at a standstill.

‘We see no evidence of it [global warming] having slowed down,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. There was, he added, ‘no levelling off’.

A graph issued by the BEST project also suggests a continuing steep increase.

The graph that fooled the world

But a report to be published today by the Global Warming Policy Foundation includes a graph of world average temperatures over the past ten years, drawn from the BEST project’s data and revealed on its website.

This graph shows that the trend of the last decade is absolutely flat, with no increase at all – though the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have carried on rising relentlessly.

‘This is nowhere near what the  climate models were predicting,’ Prof Curry said. ‘Whatever it is that’s going on here, it doesn’t look like it’s being dominated by CO2.’

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2055191/Scientists-said-climate-change-sceptics-proved-wrong-accused-hiding-truth-colleague.html

High toxic levels found at school, market neighboring informal e-waste salvage site in Africa

Tests at a school beside an informal electronic waste salvage site in Ghana's capital Accra reveal contamination due to lead, cadmium and other health-threatening pollutants over 50 times higher than risk-free levels.

Puerto Rico's First Wind Farm Financed | EarthTechling

Pattern Energy Group has secured financing for Finca de Viento Santa Isabel, the first commercial wind energy project in Puerto Rico. The 75-megawatt (MW) project in the southern municipality of Santa Isabel is expected to generate enough electricity to power approximately 25,000 homes. Energy produced at the plant will be purchased by the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, under a 20-year power purchase agreement.

According to Puerto Rico Gov. Luis G. Fortuño, project is a reflection of the country’s comprehensive energy reform program. Construction on the wind farm, which will use Siemens‘ new SWT-2.3-108 turbines, is scheduled to begin in October. According to Pattern, approximately 150 jobs will be created during the construction process, and the plant will be completed by September 2012. Upon completion, 8-10 jobs will be required to operate the facility.

Siemens Turbine

“With this project, Pattern enters into a partnership with Puerto Rico to pioneer its much-needed energy diversification and lead the way to cleaner and more efficient energy sources,” said Mike Garland, CEO of Pattern. “The provision of financing demonstrates the confidence that investors have placed in both Pattern’s proven ability to successfully see projects through to completion and in Puerto Rico as a viable market for the development of renewable energy in the long term.”

Pattern Energy Group LP is an energy company that develops, constructs, owns, and operates renewable energy and transmission assets in the United States, Canada and Latin America. The company has developed, financed and placed into operation more than 2,500 MW of wind power projects. Pattern currently operates 520 MW of wind energy in North America, and has a development pipeline exceeding 4,000 MW of renewable energy and transmission projects. The project is being financed by Siemens Financial Services.


Green Car Congress: US DOE launches cost calculator to compare emissions and operating costs for alternative fuel and conventional vehicles

The US Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) recently launched a new Vehicle Cost Calculator and accompanying widget. The Vehicle Cost Calculator, an easy-to-use tool that allows users to compare emissions and lifetime operating costs of specific vehicle models, including conventional cars and trucks, as well as vehicles running on alternative fuels such as electricity, ethanol, natural gas, or biodiesel.

With the new calculator, which was developed by DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), car shoppers, small business owners, and fleet managers can make side-by-side comparisons between thousands of conventional, electric drive, and alternative fuel vehicles from model year 1996 and newer.

The calculator also lets users enter information such as driving habits, local ZIP code, price of fuel, and potential tax credits to personalize their results. The tool then presents a comparison of the selected models, displaying the total lifetime ownership costs of the vehicles and the breakdown of the lifetime operating costs between fuel and maintenance costs. It also calculates the operational cost per mile and greenhouse gas emissions over time for the vehicles....

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Power the economy and grid with local solar power [Infographic] | Grist

Voith Turbo SteamTrac waste heat recovery system in rail car decreases fuel consumption by 4-12%

Voith Turbo recently reported the test results from a SteamTrac (Steam Traction) waste heat recovery system installed in a rail vehicle of SWEG Verkehrsbetriebe Breisgau Kaiserstuhl, Germany showed a decrease in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by 4 to 12%, depending upon the driving profile.

Voith developed SteamTrac to target marine and industrial applications as well as rail vehicles. Steam is generated from exhaust heat via a heat exchanger and fed to a piston expander to produce additional mechanical energy, which is then redirected straight to the driveline.

SteamTrac working principle. Click to enlarge.

Since March, a SteamTrac has been operating in the rail test vehicle of SWEG. The single-car diesel railcar built by Waggon Union Berlin dates back to 1993, and is fitted with two 250-kW diesel-hydraulic drive systems with Voith turbo transmissions.

According to Voith calculations, the SteamTrac, which is connected to one of the two engines, generates an additional input power of 24 kW. Initial measuring trips already came up with an additional power of 19 kW.

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Fukushima decommissioning will take at least three decades.

A draft road map outlining the more than 30-year process of decommissioning and dismantling the crippled reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant was published by the Japan Atomic Energy Commission on Oct. 28.

California's most incendiary water war is on...

Massive California farm-to-city water deal snared in litigation
A 2003 water pact between the Imperial Valley and San Diego County was supposed to be good for both parties, and for California.

Imperial Valley

But the agreement — billed as the largest sale of water from farms to cities in the nation — is snared in litigation and the outcome is uncertain. No sooner had the pact been signed than it came under attack by environmentalists, farmers and the Imperial County Board of Supervisors.

One major point of contention is that the Salton Sea could become saltier and shrink if farmers reduce agricultural runoff into the sea because water is being sold to San Diego County. If the sea recedes further and becomes more saline, it could lead to massive fish die-offs, endanger migratory fowl and result in toxic dust storms.

The state Legislature, to help finalize the water deal, had promised to help fund restoration of the sea, but budget constraints have made that impossible.

Unless the state follows through on that promise, officials in San Diego and the Imperial Valley worry that the water deal could be struck down by the courts. If that happens, Southern California may be forced to seek more water from Northern California — the most incendiary issue in the state's historic water wars....

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Tipping point: what happens when our landfills are full? - Telegraph

As space in Britain's landfills runs out, the race is on to find environmentally friendly alternatives.

...Until a few years ago, there was only one significant alternative to landfill: incineration. The big five waste companies – Veolia, Sita, Viridor, WRG and Biffa – are all fond of incineration, though the word itself makes them jumpy. (They prefer the euphemism 'energy from waste’.) Incineration is highly effective – you can generate a lot of power from huge loads of rubbish and don’t need to do much work sorting it all out in advance. Moreover, incinerators are cleaner and more efficient than they used to be.
For the big players, incineration is the main replacement for landfill. Hayward-Higham says that if the UK is to meet its EU targets, we will need to add more than 20 million tons of 'thermal capacity’, the equivalent of 35 mega incinerators like the Belvedere plant in south-east London. This will be one of the biggest incinerators in the country when it becomes operational, expected at the end of 2012.
Unsurprisingly, environmental groups aren’t fans of incineration. According to Friends of the Earth, incinerators are considerably worse on carbon efficiency than even coal-fired power stations. It seems perverse that developed economies – so keen in other ways to kill CO2-belching industries – are looking to incineration as an alternative to landfill.

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Bangkok heads into critical days - WallStreet Journal

Thai authorities abandoned their crisis operations center at Bangkok's old international airport Saturday because of rising floodwaters as soldiers and volunteers raced against to time to shore up the city's defenses against a massive flow of water that has already inundated parts of the capital and a vast swath of countryside.

U.S. Embassy air quality data undercut China's own assessments.

One day this month, the reading was so high compared with U.S. standards it was listed as 'beyond index.' But China's own assessment that day was that Beijing's air was merely 'slightly polluted.'

Trail of deceit as emails expose asbestos scandal.

An internal email chain has exposed key police personnel who deliberately kept thousands of officers and their families in the dark about asbestos and other poisonous hazards in stations and houses across NSW.

Radioactive waste haunts residents

Katie McGrath on Nelson Parade in Hunters Hill, the site of uranium contamination.

Struggling … Katie McGrath at Nelson Parade, Hunters Hill, says the government must stop dithering. Photo: Janie Barrett

FOR the state government it has been a lingering headache since the 1970s but for people who lived on top of radioactive waste in an exclusive harbourside suburb of Sydney it is a matter of life and death.

Katie McGrath, who spent her early life at the site of a former uranium smelter at Nelson Parade, Hunters Hill, is pleading for the O'Farrell government to clean up the site once and for all in the interest of public health.

As a three year-old in 1975, Ms McGrath lost her mother, Iris, to a mysterious cancer. Nine months later her father, Fabian, also died from the disease. Both were in their 30s.

Ms McGrath is now struggling to cope with the recent diagnosis of another family member with a potentially radiation-related illness.

At least six people who lived in Nelson Parade have died of stomach and other non-hereditary cancers.

''Every state government for four decades has known about this and all of them have sat on their hands while people have died,'' Ms McGrath told The Sun-Herald.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/environment/radioactive-waste-haunts-residents-20111029-1mpb6.html#ixzz1cGhEz52o

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New Jersey mayor welcomes china-based solar farm over housing, police and schools - WTF?

“We probably would have had to build a new school” had the housing development been approved, Skudera said... 

A 100-acre site in Tinton Falls, NJ that likely would have resulted in the construction of a new school and costly municipal services like fire and police protection will instead .... $80 million solar farm ...built by China-based Zongyi Solar America Co.