Thursday, May 28, 2009

POLLUTION: 'Clean Coal' and 'Swing' States

Clean coal as real as aliensImage: "Clean Coal - As Real As Aliens" by afagen via Flickr

Clean Coal and Swing States by Joel Koman

How many of you remember seeing Barak Obama or John McCain on the campaign trail talking about clean coal technology? Did you notice how this occurred in the swing states, states like Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio and others.

Now consider this, there are no operating clean coal plants in the United States, the proponents of clean coal cannot tell you what it will cost to produce energy using this technology. This technology may not even be viable yet both presidential candidates were talking about how important it is... Why is that?

The economies of these states are tied to the coal industry in many ways, many of the citizens and politicians in those states will fight for coal as if their lives depended on it... this is because their economic lives do depend on it! Unfortunately for us, the general public, and the rest of the world, these states control who gets elected for president and they know it.

In some ways we can understand their selfishness, not wanting to relinquish the power. In other ways we want to say... you dirty bastards, how dare you do this to the rest of us! The coal industry and the states who cater to it are holding our nation hostage, our current two-party political system is allowing it. Our kids will have to pay the bill in more ways than one... it's time we stand up and be heard.

So this is the situation; energy use in the United States and the rest of the world is growing rapidly, the number one method for producing energy is coal, roughly 50% in the United States and 70% in China. In the next 5-10 years hybrid electric vehicles will become much more prevalent. This will create even more demand for electricity.

We are investing hundreds of millions of dollars in coal power plants, technology that sees roughly 5 to 7% price increases per year on the dirtiest method to produce energy we have. On the other hand we have alternative energy, energy that dramatically decreases in cost over time, both via reduced manufacturing costs with mass production and production costs because the equipment is very low maintenance and the energy supply...sunlight, wind, and geothermal are free.

The question is this... Do we want to be a nation who leads the next great worldwide revolution, the Alternative Energy Revolution? Do we want to sell our technology to the rest of the world, especially the Third World countries, as they begin to use more power? Or... do we want to continue to settle our kids with debt for old technology, technology that is obsolete as we speak? Would you like to be the nation responsible for continuing to pollute the world? Who Are The Ones We've Been Waiting For...We Are!

About the Author

Joel Koman loves to write about renewable energy. He is an avid proponent of alternative and renewable energy with an entrepreneurial spirit. He manages his own site QuestionAuthoriTees where all his passion and current projects can be found.

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ZEITGEIST: Economic and Ethical Conflicts Confront the Green Industry

Organic cultivation of mixed vegetables in Cap...Image via Wikipedia

Economic and Ethical Conflicts Confront the Green Industry by Bob Folkart

With the increasing popularity of organic/ green products, there has been a rapid expansion in the number and variety of green companies. In terms of consumer sales, the most appealing merchandise is produced from pesticide-free organic agriculture.

The organic farming industry must follow regulations established by the Organic Foods Production Act. Not only are there restrictions for synthetic pesticides but also synthetic fertilizers. With restricted use of these chemicals that control pests and promote plant growth, increasing crop production is limited to a variety of traditional farming practices. These include crop rotation, the use of natural predators and pesticides and natural fertilizers. Many of us use these methods in our home gardens. But when organic farming becomes a business, crop yield is a critical economic factor.

In organic agriculture, the farming system works well but crop production or net product yield has some limitations in comparison to inorganic agribusiness. Today, with rising costs including salaries and benefits to workers, profits are dropping in organic farming.

Of course, organic agriculture has provided the foundation for the emergent organic food and clothing industries. Organic food sales have been growing about 20% per year and organic fiber or clothing at about 15% per year (Organic Trade Association). However, limited crop yields are making it more expensive to produce organic food and fiber. Some of these costs are being passed on to related organic companies that are now facing similar financial concerns. "Green compromises" are now being considered to reduce this economic burden.

The preceding discussion illustrates the difficult ethical and economic conflicts for organic companies who by definition have ethical goals. Lobbying congress to review the Organic Foods Production Act and redefine the chemical requirements of "organic" is an option for the agriculture industry. But lowering standards would deface the value of the organic label. Similar economic and ethical conflicts are confounding the commerce of the organic food and clothing industries.

Organic apparel has no legislative restrictions as compared to organic agriculture or food. Essentially, everything is based on voluntary compliance with industry standards set by industry/consumer organizations.

Without legal guidelines, organic clothing companies have described their products as ethical fashion, conscientious clothing or simply eco-friendly. Many of these businesses call their apparel eco-friendly based on their use of low impact dyes and inks. They also have used the term "sweatshop free" guaranteeing safe working conditions and fair salaries for their workers. Sadly, these conditions are not always present overseas.

Profits are being reduced with more expensive organic cotton, hemp, bamboo etc. In order to maintain eco-friendly standards these expenses might be passed on to the consumer. However, higher retail prices in a slumping economy could still reduce sales and profits. In that case clothing companies could turn to organic agriculture overseas with uncertain working conditions and questionable product standards. Each clothing company must resolve their own ethical economic conflicts and select what they believe is the "best" course of action.

Even if organic clothing production is kept in the US, there are sad economic alternatives to consider along with their related ethical concerns. Some apparel corporations might consider less expensive dyeing and printing methods that may prevent the use of low impact dyes and inks.

It's apparent that reducing chemical standards in organic agriculture, purchasing and manufacturing organic apparel abroad, or using less expensive toxic dyes and inks can destroy everything the organic label stands for in the organic food and clothing industry.

When economic pressures confront responsible ethical commitments, how do green companies resolve or compromise their goals in such conflicts? How do they choose between alternatives that have negative consequences no matter what they decide?

Should the federal government intervene and support the popular green industry when Congress already has many higher priorities? Today, these priorities range from energy independence, to health care, to social security, to defense spending, to bailing out financial institutions and major corporations. In comparison, the green industry seems small and not a high priority.

However, depending on how you define green, green commerce in the US is very substantial, quite diversified and growing rapidly despite economic concerns. Yet the industry still addresses a common goal and top federal priorities.The definition of a green product doesn't require it to be organic. There are many companies that provide inorganic products but are still considered green. These businesses are green because they all support a common goal of preserving our environment by diminishing energy demands and carbon consumption. In general they help reduce our "carbon footprint" (consumption of carbon based natural resources).

For example, the green energy industry provides us with environmentally sound alternatives to using fossil fuels. Consumption of carbon based fossil fuels results in environmental degradation, release of greenhouse gases, and a huge increase in our carbon footprint. The alternative energy industry includes wind, geothermal, and solar energy. Certainly they address two of the highest priorities for the United States ...protecting the environment and achieving energy independence.

Resolving economic and ethical conflicts for any corporation is a challenging task. This is especially true for the green industry due to their ethical commitment to the environment and the public. The long term prognosis for resolving this problem and maintaining the integrity of the organic label is unclear and depends in part on the course of our economy.

However, some organic apparel companies have set a new standard for initiative by searching for an additional no cost approach to promote rather than compromise their ethical standards. Working independently, these companies actually came up with the same innovative method to sustain their green missions. They use their organic clothing to address ethical principles and environmental responsibility.

Live Life Organics, a Baltimore green company, is an online retailer of organic cotton apparel. They provide an easy example of how this method is implemented by their design and production team. They simply display inspirational messages on all their clothing designs. They trust their positive messages will encourage positive thinking and an ethical lifestyle of responsibility to our planet and fellow man.

When confronted with economic or political problems we can't control, we all need to think about alternative approaches to achieve our goals. All of us can think of different alternatives to reduce our carbon footprint. We can also persuade our elected representatives to follow an ethical path toward just legislation in the face of economic and political pressure.

Bob Folkart is Vice-President of Live Life Organics, a company committed to supporting the environment and providing for the needs or our fellow man. They display inspirational messages on all their apparel (for adults, yoga, juniors and babies) encouraging hope, courage, tolerance and compassion to promote positive thinking and an ethical lifestyle of responsibilty for our plant and its inhabitants. They also have a unique hemp attached hangtag on all their clothing. The hangtag can be plantd in the earth to recyle and grow into wildflowers celebrating the beauty of life. To view these organic products, go to: http://www.;

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CONSERVATION: Emissions and Cap and Trade Legislation

{{es|Emisiones globales de diĆ³xido de carbono ...Image via Wikipedia

Emissions and Cap and Trade by Lawrence Losoncy

Environmentally speaking, all conversation boils down to emissions. If there were no emissions from producing and consuming fossil fuels, all would be fine. Nothing would be going into the earth's atmosphere except heat and steam.

But in reality we spew emissions from power plants and refineries, vehicles, industrial smokestacks, and heating and air conditioning units in homes and businesses. Add to this list trash fires, cooking fires, wildfires and volcanic eruptions. With six billion people creating emissions we have a large problem! Much of what goes up in smoke accumulates and hangs around, creating both environmental and health hazards. This connects the problems of emissions to the cost of health care.

Strategies in response to the problem fall into two categories:

• develop non-fossil fuels
• use less fossil fuels in the meantime

The hopes for non-fossil fuels include:

• hybrid vehicles (engines that combine gasoline with battery stored energy)
• hydrogen
• wind and solar produced electricity
• ethanol produced from corn
• fuels produced from grass, sugar cane, seaweed, other plants
• tidal generated electricity
• thermal heat derived from volcanoes
• clean coal and natural gas as transitional fossil fuels that have less damaging emissions

The hopes for reducing the use of fossil fuels in the short-term include:

• tougher emission standards for vehicles
• higher mileage standards for vehicles
• more energy efficient appliances, lighting, computers, air conditioners and TVs
• tougher emission standards for smokestacks on power plants and industrial buildings

Cap and trade proposals are being developed by advocates in the Administration and in Congress as an "ideal" strategy. In a nutshell, the government would set emission standards for industrial plants and sell licenses for emitting the allowable amount. There would be fines for exceeding the allowable amount.

It would be allowable to sell, buy, and trade the allowable amounts. For example, a company using less than its allowable amount of emissions could sell or trade the rest to a company emitting more than its allowable amount. In order for this approach to work there would be government regulations and enforcement. Government would decide the allowable amounts.

We can expect to hear numerous proposals as well as heated resistance to cap and trade schemes, even as Congress currently considers legislation to force cap and trade implementation. This debate has been going on for years already. What makes it appealing to government is that it speaks to the threefold motivations driving energy policy: it creates incentives to cut emissions, it raises the cost of fossil fuels so as to make a market for alternative fuels, and it generates revenue for the government.

What makes cap and trade objectionable to opponents is that it means more government regulation and control, along with more fees and fines creating government revenue. This increases the cost of energy used to produce electricity, goods and services. It places in the hands of government the control of emissions, as though the right to emit were a taxable commodity.

Once again political and economic factors, not only environmental science, would drive the policies. Two of the foundations under our economy have always been energy and credit. Traditionally when these have been cheap business has been good and when these have been expensive business has been bad.

Bottom line: plan for increased energy costs no matter what the outcome of the debates. Alternative fuels will be expensive. Fossil fuels will be expensive. Electricity derived from either type of fuel will become increasingly expensive. Recognize that the era of cheap anything is likely over. Both the private sector and federal government now see advantages to raising the cost of producing and using energy.

Losoncy is the president of Clean Up America, Inc., a company that markets evaporate waterless toilets where conventional sanitation systems are not feasible. To learn more please go to

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GREEN LIVING: Ways To Go Green And Save Money Too

The chart shows the energy usage for different...Image via Wikipedia

by Art Gib

In today's tough economic times, families want to save money any way they can, but they don't want to sacrifice their commitment to reducing their carbon footprints either. The two can definitely go hand in hand: here are some easy ways for families to go green while saving green!

Laundry and Clothing

Look for biodegradable laundry detergents and cut out all of the toxic products too often used on clothes such as bleach. Non-chlorine bleaches are an excellent alternative to the regular kind and they contain no harmful by-products and waste. Eco-friendly detergents cost no more than the regular kind; in fact, they are generally less expensive than the most popular brand-name products.

Use cold water and only run full loads when washing clothes. It is a waste of water and energy to run through an entire wash cycle only to clean a few articles of clothing at a time: better to wait till you have a nice, full load and do it once. Most clothes come perfectly clean in cold or warm temperatures, especially if they are pre-treated, and so there is no need to waste energy by using hot water.

How about setting up a clothesline and drying clothes in the open air like your great grandmother used to do? Dryers are notorious energy hogs, and drying clothes on the line could save you $150 a year.

Look for recycled "green clothing." There are great companies out there who are in the business of clothing America using only recyclable materials such as soybeans, corn, and even bamboo. You can get shirts, jackets, vests and all kinds of other high quality and durable products at reasonable prices and help the environment too.

Turn Off the Lights and Unplug too

It is a myth that turning lights on and off uses more power. Train your children from an early age to turn off anything electric that they are not using. Replace as many incandescent bulbs as possible with compact fluorescent ones. These CFLs use 75% less energy than their old-fashioned counterparts and last ten times longer. Although CFLs are more expensive to purchase, the savings in energy costs pays off in about three months.

Electrical devices that often sit unused but are still plugged in can zap energy and your electric bill without your even knowing it. Common perpetrators include TVs, home computers, toasters, and stereo systems. Even when these devices are not turned on, they are using electricity to the tune of about $100 a year. Either unplug these things when they are not in use, or invest in some power strips with a switch that can easily be turned on and off.

These are just a few of the many easy steps that families can take to not only save energy, but save money too. Going green definitely saves the green.

For the very best in affordable men's and women's green clothing made from recyclable materials, visit ArcMate Manufacturing ( Art Gib is a freelance writer.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

CORPORATE POWER: Cheap Flights and Climate Change - Do We Want Too Much?

WARNING : Oil Addiction - causes climate chang...Image by ~~ zorro ~~ via Flickr

Cheap Flights and Climate Change - Do We Want Too Much? by Luca Marazzi

What can be done about this increasingly worrying contribution to global warming?

The most important options to reduce aircraft CO2 emissions are:

- changes in aircraft and engine technology;
- use of alternative fuels, such as (sustainably produced) biofuels;
- regulatory and operational measures such as improvements in air traffic management;
- economic measures such as inclusion of aircraft emissions in emission trading schemes.

But, as Giovanni Bisignani, manager of International Air Transport Association (IATA), stated: "Emissions trading schemes only make sense with efficient infrastructure. The IPCC estimates that there is 12% inefficiency in air traffic management globally: we produce up to 73 million tonnes of carbon emissions each year by aircraft flying inefficiently due to air traffic management limitations". **

On a personal level we could ask ourselves, especially in the developed world: "Do we really need to fly so frequently?" The use of telework, teleconferencing and videoconferencing could be largely increased to plan work and meetings.

Can't the development of land and air transportation infrastructures be balanced better according to the real needs of people and businesses? Trains could connect cities better and cheaper, for example in Europe, where the prices are not competitive with those of many flights anymore (and night train services have been reduced if not cancelled).

Lifestyles do matter because if millions of people want to have cheap weekends in relatively close tourist locations, many flights are needed to satisfy their desires and consequently a lot of pollution is generated. Also, our per capita emissions could be cut also by reducing the "surplus" trips, by slowing down our life rhythms and enjoying more local attractions in our free time. Who knows? We could discover the "exotic" in our own neighborhoods without flying to the Caribbean Sea...

Furthermore the relationship between the costs and the environmental externalities (i.e. costs not included in the economy like health damages caused by pollution) needs to be considered as well: there are higher marginal impacts for short-distance flights that should be considered in prices paid by passengers.

All these political, technological and personal choices are some of the good examples needed by the developing countries to follow the 21st century's Western society along a new sustainable path which looks like the only good alternative forward.

**"Talks to reduce aircraft global-warming emissions

For further information on Climate Change please visit the Responding to Climate Change website -

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ZEITGEIST: Replace Corporate Energy Industry With Small Scale Mass Customization of Our Energy Infrastructure

Hydraulic turbine and electrical generator, cu...Image of hydraulic turbine and electrical generator via Wikipedia

Replace Corporate Energy Industry With Small Scale Mass Customization of Our Energy Infrastructure by Bob Mccoy

I propose replacing our energy industry with houses that use very little energy in the first place (Jimmy Carter conservation), and that have their own generating capacity, starting with solar, and including wind, hydroelectric, geothermal, whatever works best for each individual building.

We'll need to restructure our tax code to allow individuals to protect assets. Then eliminate corporate income taxes, and protect against disguising personal income as corporate income.

We want and need big businesses to supply products and services. We just do not want big business to interfere with our government, run roughshod over our people or wreak havoc in our natural environment.

We need to develop small-scale mass customization using the best combination of sustainable energy generating capacity for individual buildings. Conservation, solar, wind, hydro-electric, tidal and geothermal are a few options for extracting energy for individual buildings, small factories or farms. Nuclear power can be used for large industrial purposes. Use batteries and capacitors to improve the reliability of the energy.

Replace the totally artificial culture of dependence being sold by these giant energy extraction and utility companies, with a new age of personal responsibility and creative freedom. Responsibility and freedom are the same thing. We can and we are taking responsibility for supplying our energy, away from these unreliable energy supply corporations. Its the grid that is unreliable.

Lets get busy, and design and build a replacement for the unreliable energy extraction industry and utility grid, that has just about destroyed the world economy. I suppose the energy industry is the foundation of the world economy, isn't it? No!

Agriculture is the foundation of the human economy, but energy is definitely a vital aspect of our economy. And these intermittent interruptions in our economy's supply of energy, is disrupting our economy and disturbing our peace.

Use hydrocarbons in our chemical industry, not our energy industry.

Small-scale mass customization, is the solution for solving these disruptive fluctuations in our power supply, its just a matter of engineering and leadership.

by Bob Mccoy.

I am developing a cluster of businesses on and offline that investigate and promote a spiritual solution to the economic problem. It is a holistic approach to self improvement and helping others. earthling09 is a holistic healing and teaching system. is a blog about healing human nature and advancing human civilization.

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CONSERVATION: The Harpy Eagle - An Endangered Species

A trainer feeds Luigi, an adult male Harpy eag...Image by AFP/Getty Images via Daylife

The Harpy Eagle - An Endangered Species by Geoff Cummings

The Harpy Eagle (Harpia harpyja) is one of the biggest of all eagles. Measuring around 37 inches (88cm) in height and weighing up to 18lbs (8kg) for females, and up to 16lbs (7kg) for males, harpy eagles have powerful talons that grow to about 5 inches (12cm) in length.

The harpy eagle was so named due to its similar looks to the half-avian, half-woman monster of Greek mythology - the Harpy.

The harpy eagle is found in the rainforests of Central and South America, where it builds its nest high up in the trees. Often it builds its nest in the crown of the kapok tree. Although it is a big bird, it can descend upon its prey almost without any noise as it flies through the rainforest canopy. Using its powerful talons it can crush the bones of sloths, monkeys, other birds, and reptiles. It will then carry off its prey and fly back to its nest, using its huge wing span of over six feet (173cm).

The harpy eagle is monogamous, mating for life. Although in breeding normally two eggs may be laid, only the first one to hatch is cared for by its parents, the other egg is simply ignored and doesn't hatch.

Unfortunately, due to poaching and the destruction of it's rainforest habitat, the bird is on the endangered species list. Panama declared it as its national bird, and efforts have been made to stop the poaching of it. Another problem with the conservation of the harpy eagle is that it isn't sexually mature until it reaches the age of four or five, and they only breed in two-year cycles.

In the Guayaquil Historic Park in Equador, however, they have a captive-breeding program. There, a healthy harpy eagle chick has been born. The Park boast around ninety species of birds, and is playing its part in ensuring the harpy eagle lives on, despite what seems the best (or should that be worst), efforts of man.

Geoff runs several sites, including DIY tips - How to Unblock a Bath and Garden Supplies for discount garden products.

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CLIMATE CHANGE: Copenhagen's Spring - Scientists Ask For Higher CO2 Cuts

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Prime Minister of Denma...Image of Anders Fogh Rasmussen via Wikipedia

Copenhagen's Spring - Scientists Ask For Higher CO2 Cuts by Luca Marazzi

The International Scientific Congress on Climate Change was held in Copenhagen between 10th to 12th March and organised by the International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU): the conclusions will be published in a full synthesis report next June. Almost 1,600 scientific contributions of researchers from over 70 countries have been received, and more than 2,500 delegates attended the event.

Connie Hedegaard, Minister of Climate & Energy for Denmark said that we have "to avoid the unmanageable and manage the unavoidable" and she pointed to their example: this European country has become a net energy exporter in 30 years, creating green growth as a stable solution to the 70s oil crisis.

The messages of the congress are various. The risk that current trends of the climatic system will accelerate has a more defined and significant meaning: more probable abrupt and irreversible shifts, and we are already above the worst scenarios published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2001. Thus the big problem is trying to at least slow down these trends if not reverse them.

The experts tell us that rapid regional and global mitigation strategies are needed and that the more we wait the more expensive and ambitious actions will have to be taken in the future. The fact that scientists have come to the point of saying that "inaction is inexcusable" means also that people who studied relentlessly for decades are frustrated by the inaction of governments, businesses and people: it is understandable given that their work has not been considered and used enough, if not at all, up to now. They are speaking louder and clearer now.

The different roles of politicians and scientists have to be combined. It is time for leaders to rely firmly on science as a basis for tough and unavoidable decisions. A "societal transformation" is being asked for by a wide group of the most intelligent people on the planet including diffusion of sustainable behaviours, innovative leadership, removal of subsidies and reduction of "vested interests". These are all very explicit messages to politicians and public alike: there is a lot of work to do between now and next December's COP15.

In the final debate the Danish Prime Minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, summarised the six messages given by scientists as 6 keywords: Urgency (of the climate change challenge), Direction (long term target to be defined), Action (short term targets to be set), Fairness (to the poorest and most vulnerable), Opportunity (to originate large benefits), Governance (creation of a new global multilateral era). He stated firmly that "business as usual is dead" and asked his colleagues to follow Obama's call for a Green New Deal, already asked for by public opinion and by many political parties in the world.

After the final debate with the panel of scientists, an impatient Rasmussen asked for clear words on the CO2 emission target to be set in the new treaty. Prof. Daniel Kammen, Obama's Senior Policy Advisor, stated that an entire new industrial revolution is needed to cut 1990's CO2 emissions by 80% in 2050 and Prof. Stefan Rahmstorf agreed on this point. The feeling was that the other panelists didn't mind...

At this point the Prime Minister concluded that the ambition for COP15 can be this - 80% long-term objective following the precautionary principle to avoid worse impacts (than the ones presented in 2007 IPCC report) already hypothesized by new works. Overall a more direct communication between scientists and policy makers took place at this huge meeting: now it's time for delegations to study and prepare the ground for brave steps forward to be made by the international community in Copenhagen's crucial Conference of the Parties #15. Will we be able to navigate better our "ship" in the solar system during the more than 200 rotations it will make before then?

Written by Luca Marazzi on behalf of Responding to Climate Change.

For further information on Climate Change please visit the Responding to Climate Change website -

Next event: Copenhagen, 24-26 May 2009. World Business Summit on Climate Change.

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CLIMATE CHANGE: Antarctic Peninsula Climate - A Change in Krill Ecosystem

Picture taken 26 July 2006 during the RV 'Pola...Image by AFP/Getty Images via Daylife

Antarctic Peninsula Climate - A Change in Krill Ecosystem by Stephen L Bynum

The Antarctic Peninsula has been experiencing warming trends for over 40 years with an increase of 2-3 C, thus correlating with lower sea ice conditions in the Amundsen Sea and Bellinghausen Sea.

Warming temperatures around the Antarctic Peninsula is changing the dynamics of the ecosystem. The rise in atmospheric temperature is causing an increase in the melting of freshwater glaciers and ice shelves. Fresh water emerging into the sea counteracts the salinity within a regional area. Changes identified are:

• Decrease in sea water salinity up to 60 miles offshore
• Lower sea ice
• Decreased krill population
• Increased salp (open ocean tunicate that is reminiscent of a jelly-fish) population
• Increase in cryptophytes (single cell phytoplankton algae)
• Decrease in diatom phytoplankton
• Increase in carbon sequestering in deep ocean sinks
• Decrease in carbon availability in the food chain

The Antarctic Krill (Euphausia superba), a small shrimp-like crustacean, is the most important zooplankton species associated with the sea ice and plays a crucial role in the Antarctic food web.

On a regional basis the amount of krill appear to be declining in the Southern Ocean. There are definitely lower trends in krill population during lower sea ice years around Antarctica. Part of the rationale for the population decline is that ice algae rely on the sea ice for protection and growth. The krill need the sea ice in order to feed on the algae and phytoplankton.

Krill occur in groups or large swarms. They are less than 3 inches in size and feed primarily on phytoplankton and sea-ice algae. Krill filter diatom phytoplankton out of the water column and scrape algae from the sea ice. Apart from frequenting the sea-ice to feed, krill, in particular juveniles, seek protection from predators in the many nooks and crannies formed by the deformed sea-ice floes. Krill is the staple food of many fish, birds and mammals in the Southern Ocean. The biomass of Antarctic krill is considered to be larger than that of the earth's human population.

Sea-ice algae utilizes atmospheric carbon dioxide for its energy source, the same as plants do on land. Krill diet of the sea-ice algae and phytoplankton is essential for converting the carbon for use in higher animals such as fish, birds, and whales. This carbon conversion is a very critical role in predatory nutrition.

Additionally krill do eliminate some of the silica from the diatom shells and carbon in sticky balls that sink nearly two miles into the deep ocean. These cold, deep waters are able to contain carbon dioxide and prevent the gas from rising to the surface, thus immobilizing carbon that is not passed into the food chain.

In recent years there have been increases in algae phytoplankton called cryptophytes. Mark Moline, California Polytechnic State University, states that the cryptophyte population correlates with warmer temperatures and lower salinity waters that are produced by the melting of the freshwater glacier. Cryptophytes measure around 2 mm, while other plankton in the Antarctic waters are much larger and measure 15 to 270 mm. Along with the increase in the cryptophyte population an increase in salp, a pelagic tunicate, population has also occurred.

There are differences between salps and krill. Salps feeding efficiency is capable of grazing on smaller food sources less than 4mm, whereas, the Antarctic Krill efficiency declines on any food less than 20 mm. The salps compete with krill for the phytoplankton and thus decrease the krill population. Additionally the salps feed on krill larvae, which also cause a decline in krill numbers.

The warming trend in the Antarctic Peninsula is showing a pattern of increasing cryptophytes over other phytoplankton and the increase in the salp. This influence is due to the low sea-ice and the lowering of the salinity in the seawater. Salps and cryptophytes do better in the lower salinity, while the krill and other plankton are unable to tolerate the increased freshwater regime from the glacier ice melts. This selectivity gives preference to the salps as the dominant species while decreasing krill abundance. During lower sea-ice seasons the density of krill declines while the salp population increases.

Carbon sequestering into the deep ocean from the algae and phytoplankton occur by both the salp and krill. Both species eliminate the atmospheric carbon received from the primary producing algae by producing fecal pellets by the salps and sticky balls by the krill, thereby, reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The salps though sequester more carbon into the cold deep ocean than the krill. However, the krill provides the most efficient pathway for carbon transfer up into the food chain.

The cryptophyte-dominated waters are less efficient in the food chain due to increased feeding by salps and the difficulty of the krill to utilize the cryptophytes as a food source. Migration patterns by penguins are changing, in part due to the changing krill population. Krill is a mainstay diet for penguins, and if the krill population changes, many other ecological changes occur with it.

Steve Bynum has worked at Palmer Station along the Antarctic Peninsula. He not only enjoyed the ecosystem along the Bellinghausen Sea but he has also witnessed the changing climate conditions.

Join Steve at as we take a journey to discover the warming and cooling effects of our planet.

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CONSERVATION: Need For a Green Army to Revive the Economy

Cleveland City StarsImage via Wikipedia

Need For a Green Army to Revive the Economy by Ashok Malhotra

During the present economic downturn prevailing around much of the world, governments have been seized with initiatives to revive economic activities and reduce unemployment. One of the proposals is large spending on new infrastructure projects.

An infrastructure project worth considering appears to be the creation of a green army charged with creating new forest areas through new tree plantations as well as new waterways and lakes to support such forests. Trees can be selected to provide food, energy through wood and bio-fuels, and wood for fuel, buildings and furniture besides creating new forest lands. Such a move will meet two other urgent needs of mankind - improving climate as well as mitigating energy shortages on a sustainable basis.

It has been felt by many thinkers that the human population on earth has increased beyond desirable levels over the past several decades. This increase is a burden on the planet. Human population on the planet cannot be reduced in a hurry. The next best thing is to utilize this population to improve the planet and the best way to do it is to create large green armies around the world to undertake the task. Different regiments of the army can be posted to different areas in order to create forests and nurture them for three to five years until they are established before moving on to new areas.

At the present time, although many countries are facing a shortage of fresh water, a lot of fresh water that falls on the continents flows back to the oceans in the rainy season. Creation of inland water reservoirs (lakes) and canals to bring water to these lakes will increase inland water resources as well as fish farming.

A green army if created needs to engage itself in this task of enhancing fresh water resources along with tree plantations. When creating new canals over undulating land the creations of tunnels rather than lifting water must be the preferred mode since it does not require additional energy for pumping. The activities of a green army would need to be supported by a green research institute that will develop the project details for new initiatives of the green army.

In the modern world the need for traditional armies raised to engage in warfare is rapidly reducing. It is time now to change the emphasis to green armies engaged in fighting climatic degradation. If such armies are created it will undoubtedly help economic activity in a fruitful and sustainable manner.

Dr. Ashok Malhotra holds a doctoral degree in engineering from the University of British Columbia Canada. For more of his activities please visit

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CLIMATE CHANGE: International Framework for Combating Climate Change

Japanese Economy, Trade and Industry Minister ...Image by AFP/Getty Images via Daylife

International Framework for Combating Climate Change by Ben Tan

Most people would agree that something must be done about climate change. However, getting some of the biggest polluters on Earth to do something about it has been the challenge so far.

More Needs To Be Done By Governments

It is hard to know how to judge whether this is about to change or not. However, increasing international and domestic social pressure can certainly have an impact. Governments are beginning to understand that it is important to get responsible scientific advisors to help them craft useful and efficient environmental policies that will be acceptable to a voting populace.

As an example, in the United States, election candidates are now touting themselves as the "green" candidate. Many are showing records to prove that they are able to gain industry support of their program on sustainable development and other matters of ecological importance. Election promises are made on government spending to invest in quality research to train a generation of qualified advisors.

Local And International Efforts On Sustainable Development

To combat climate change, understanding of the subject and its impact on lives at stake is important. Since these issues are all related to sustainable development, some nations are building support for domestic sustainable development, making it more likely now for more international agreements to be established on all issues related to climate change. The international agreements on limiting carbon dioxide emissions are quick in coming.

Developed nations are giving a great deal of direct and indirect aid to foreign nations, much of which is in the form of sustainable development initiatives.

Foreign Aid For Better Living

The concepts of sustainable development have been brought to some of the poorest places on earth, thanks to the generosity of wealthier nations. This invaluable source of funding has improved the lives of people throughout the world when human suffering would otherwise foment conflict.

Not all foreign aid is effective, with some efforts going down the drain as resources and wealth that could be shared more equally are benefiting less people due to the fragile political backdrop or irresponsible government practices. Nonetheless, over a long term and with better aid auditing, nations are better equipped to handle their resource rich future for sustainable growth.

Long Term Sustainable Growth

Successful long-term development is a complex process that depends on many factors. In most cases, two qualities seem particularly important: the quality of governance in a country will heavily influence its development; and adopting economic policies that promote growth will contribute significantly to development.

Without these qualities, foreign aid is much less effective in determining whether a country will achieve long-term sustainable growth and development. Foreign aid is likely to be the most helpful when it is given to countries that maintain stable, honest governments and have adopted market-oriented, outward-looking economic policies. For this reason, many foreign aids donors are now making it mandatory for countries to adopt positive political and economic policies. Countries that are unlikely or unwilling to make necessary political and economic reforms will face greater difficulties to obtain aids.

Ben provides consultancy to real and virtual estate owners. Eco-Renewable Resources is one of Ben's interests, with a special focus on Global Warming.

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ALTERNATIVE ENERGY: Biofuels Nirvana - Converting Greenhouse Gases to Biodiesel - The Ideal Biofuels Process

Image representing Aurora Biofuels as depicted...Image via CrunchBase

Biofuels Nirvana - Converting Greenhouse Gases to Biodiesel - The Ideal Biofuels Process by David Rozzell

There has been a lot of negative talk about companies using corn to produce biofuels, but don't paint Aurora Biofuels with that brush. The company is offering an attractive alternative: converting carbon dioxide - a greenhouse gas - into biodiesel while growing in sea water.

The company is using a genetically modified algae developed at the University of California at Berkeley to efficiently produce biodiesel using CO2 as the feedstock. The Aurora claims the technology, developed by microbial biology professor Tasios Melis, can create biodiesel fuel with yields that are 125 times higher and have 50 percent lower costs than current production methods. One can only wonder if those higher yields are based on somewhat modest benchmark production data.

Definitely worth paying attention to is the recent announcement by Aurora that it has completed an 18 month demonstration of its process for making biodiesel, and further, that it could produce this biodiesel for an estimated $50 per barrel at scale. That would be very attractive.

And Aurora's new CEO, Robert Walsh, a recent high level Shell Oil Company production executive, is focused on developing a first commercial scale 50 acre pond system for Aurora's algae that will produce 300,000 gallons per year of biodiesel by 2012. According to Aurora, its special algae can use waste CO2 from electric utilities, cement plants and the like, converting 40 lbs. of CO2 into one gallon of biodiesel fuel with an energy content of 130-140,000 Btu/gal. And get this! According to the company, the CO2 used in the system does not have to be cleaned. In fact, the toxic gases NOx (nitrous oxides) and SOx (sulfur oxides) are actually nutrients that enhance algae growth!

From its name you might think the company is located in Colorado, but the headquarters is in Alameda, California, with some operations in Florida. According to the company's website, backers include Gabriel Venture Partners, Noventi, Oak Investment Partners (and angel investors include Automatic CEO Toni Schneider).

No partners have been announced so far, and don't ask about revenues - there aren't any yet. Aurora seems to have a heavy component of engineering as a part of its production technology, which is probably a very good thing. With all the various algae players out there right now, the competition among them will be interesting to watch.

David Rozzell maintains a web site and blog dedicated to the latest developments and news in biofuels, biocatalysis, and industrial biotechnology. For informative, sometimes amusing, always opinionated analysis go to He has 25 years of experience in biocatalysis and industrial biotechnology, and speaks frequently at international symposia. He is available for consulting projects. Contact him at

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SOLAR ENERGY: The Hidden Cost of Paperwork in Solar Projects

GAINESVILLE, FL - APRIL 16: Harald Kegelmann f...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

The Hidden Cost of Paperwork in Solar Projects by Tina Metcalf

According to a recent report, the cost per watt of a photovoltaic array goes up by approximately $1 per watt because of the extensive paperwork needed to permit, complete and fund it.

According to Steven Chan, chief strategy officer with Suntech Power Holdings, permitting from state and local regulatory agencies, filling out inspection reports, and applying for the myriad solar rebates and tax incentives available - from entities as diverse as regional city councils to the federal government - make the process entirely too complex and time-consuming for most installers to handle, so many companies are now hiring professionals who knows the ropes.

The permitting process has improved in recent years thanks to growing familiarity with solar energy. Most local city building departments, and their inspectors, have at least a generic understanding of what is needed. Structural engineers, who review a roof's construction, pitch and framing, are even more cognizant, and an engineering report on older roofs should be an essential first step in installation. Rebates and incentives, however, are a whole other ballgame.

For example, in California, DSIRE (the Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy) lists over 130 different solar resources, from "green" building incentives to lease purchase programs to local grant, loan and rebate programs. The list of participating utilities alone runs to almost 100 entries.

Imagine wading through those possibilities, and perusing all the requirements, just to determine how much a homeowner can ask for to offset the costs of a solar energy installation! According to Danny Kennedy, founder of Sungevity, a solar installer, it can take 10 to 20 hours to fill out all the paperwork to qualify for a solar rebate. That is why Kennedy - who has created a software program for providing installation estimates over the Internet - is pushing state and local governing and granting bodies to accept e-signatures. Kennedy adds that online estimates can cut solar installation costs by around 10 percent by eliminating up to 80 percent of the onsite pre-inspections needed.

Although the average installation cost of solar was $7.60 per watt in 2007, and the recession has caused a drop in panel prices, solar installations in late 2008 and early 2009 don't show that much of a drop, not counting rebates and incentives. In fact, it may take a full year or more for the economic impact of the recession to reflect itself in solar energy installation costs, if only because surviving solar manufacturers and installers didn't begin with such inflated workforces that cutbacks are possible.

Of course, the more you install, the cheaper the cost. A five-kilowatt system averages $8.3 per watt; 750 kilowatts or larger averages $6.8 per watt. Since most residential systems are in the five-kilowatt range, prices remain high.

Complicating the paperwork costs of solar installation in the future are mandated renewable energy credits, or RECs. In some states like Maryland, public utilities are required to buy RECs from residential homeowners. These credits are designed to meet state mandates that specify a certain amount of a utility's energy generation has to come from renewable energy, or more specifically, residential solar energy.

The Maryland mandate has already spurred the creation of at least one company - U.S. Photovoltaics Inc. - which offers to set up a homeowner's credit and trade it at highest value to a participating utility. For a flat fee of about $250, and from 10 to 25 percent of the REC's value, private firms or solar installers licensed to trade in these commodity-based certificates will also complete the paperwork to establish the account at state and federal levels.

Trading in RECs is quite new, so the costs and profit margins are somewhat unknown, but Maryland traders estimate each kilowatt-hour is worth between $450 and $700. Karen Czarnowski of Anne Arundel County, Maryland, thinks that her home's RECs could generate about $10,000 over a 15-year period, which will accelerate the payoff time on her $20,000 solar system.

Most reputable solar installers will, of course, handle the paperwork for you as they put together your system. If you build and install, or simply install, your own solar electric system, you will be responsible for your own paperwork. At $1 per watt, I personally think I'd leave the headaches to the professionals.

Cooler Planet is a leading solar resource for connecting consumers and commercial entities with local solar Installers. Cooler Planet's solar energy resource page contains articles and tools such as our solar calculator to help with your solar project.

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