Annual deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon fell below 10,000 square kilometers for the first time since record-keeping began, reported Brazil’s Environment Minister Carlos Minc on Sunday.
Minc said preliminary data from the country’s satellite-based deforestation detection system (DETER) showed that Amazon forest loss between August 2008 and July 2009 would be below 10,000 square kilometers, the lowest level in more than 20 years. Official figures are due out in August or September.
Falling commodity prices and government action to crack down on illegal clearing are credited for the decline in deforestation.
Conversion to cattle pasture accounts for roughly 80 percent of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. Pasture is used for beef production as well as to speculate on rising land prices.
Switzerland’s glaciers shrank by 12 percent over the past decade, melting at their fastest rate due to rising temperatures and lighter snowfalls, a study by the Swiss university ETH showed Monday.
“The last decade was the worst decade that we have had in the last 150 years. We lost a lot of water,” said Daniel Farinotti, research assistant at the ETH.
“The trend is definitely that glaciers are melting faster now. Since the end of the 1980s, they have lost more and more mass more quickly,” he said….
Swiss glaciers have lost 9 cubic km of ice since 1999, the warmest period of the past 150 years,
Brazil will pay small farmers to plant trees in deforested parts of the Amazon under a plan unveiled Friday by President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
The Green Arch initiative (Arco Verde) will pay farmers up to $51 per month for reforestation of degraded lands in 43 Amazon municipalities where deforestation is an ongoing problem.
“We need to think about how to make those people feel that they will make more money by planting trees than by cutting them down,” Lula told Reuters on Friday.
The program will also train local officials to prevent illegal logging and land grabbing in the municipalities.
The solar photovoltaic industry has an image problem: The costs of installing solar panels remain high relative to wind power and fossil fuels, and the solar industry is concerned that too many potential users believe that the costs are stuck at those high levels.
But by next year electricity from solar photovoltaic panels will be cost-competitive with power from the grid in parts of southern Europe, a development that would highlight a move toward much greater affordability, said Winfried Hoffmann, the president of the European Photovoltaic Industry Association….
Mr. Hoffmann was in Brussels to present the results of a study conducted in collaboration with A.T. Kearney, a consultancy, showing that photovoltaic power could supply as much as 12 percent of electricity demand in the European Union by 2020, up from less than 1 percent now…..
In Southern Europe, and Italy in particular, sunshine is plentiful and electricity costs are higher than some other parts of the European trading bloc. In parts of Italy, consumers pay about 25 euro cents a kilowatt hour of electricity from the grid, and Mr. Hoffmann said that would be about the same as what some Italian households would pay for running solar panels starting in 2010. However, he acknowledged that Italians still faced a great deal of red tape to qualify for feed-in tariffs “” a factor that was holding back growth in the use of the technology.
Access to green technology is becoming a growing stumbling block in global efforts to fight climate change, with US lawmakers bristling at what they see as China’s attempt to “steal” US know-how.
China and India have led calls for developed nations to share technology to help them battle global warming as the clock ticks to a December meeting in Copenhagen meant to seal a successor to the Kyoto Protocol.
The US House of Representatives this month unanimously voted to make it US policy to prevent the Copenhagen treaty from “weakening” US intellectual property rights on a wind, solar and other eco-friendly technologies.
Scientists say they are forging ahead in developing replacements for petrochemical fuels that will be cost-competitive and renewable while having a minimal impact on the environment, reports Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News (GEN). A consensus is emerging that no one technology will reign supreme and that a range of current and novel methodologies will contribute to meeting biofuel needs, according to the June 15 issue of GEN.
“¦Edenspace Systems is working on Energy Corn„¢, a feedstock designed to cut the cost of producing cellulosic biofuels from corn stover. The company’s technology platform, based on identifying promising cellulose genes, transforming crop plants with candidate genes, and evaluating the effects on growth, yield, and cellulose hydrolysis, would be applicable to a variety of energy crops including switchgrass, sorghum, and sugar cane.
A green economy backed by a green industry should be the goal of all states as they try to cope with climate change and the economic crisis, experts said Monday at the start of a UN conference.
“The current global financial and economic crisis must be used to our advantage to bring about a green energy revolution,” said Kandeh K. Yumkella, director-general of the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).
The three-day meet was to pave the way “towards a low-carbon global ‘green economy’ powered by ‘green industry’,” he added.
When European and Chinese scientists first agreed to collaborate on capturing carbon dioxide from power plants and storing it underground, China’s entire carbon capture and sequestration “team” was composed of two Tsinghua University graduate students.
Less than five years later, the landscape is markedly different. China’s first near-zero-emissions coal plant won state approval this month — an apparent formality, since construction already is far under way. Two other pilots are in the works, including one in inner Mongolia that could be the largest sequestration project in the world. Conferences on carbon capture in China now routinely feature high-level government and industry leaders.
Raytheon says it is testing a leak-proof method of keeping sequestered carbon dioxide buried deep in the ground “” using some of the same technology it developed to increase production of oil from shale.
The latest sequestration method involves encasing the gas in gel, pumping it underground, and then heating it with microwaves until the gel solidifies. The extraction technology, for its part, involves heating the shale with microwaves before pumping liquid carbon dioxide into the formations to separate kerogen, an organic precursor of oil, from the rock.
Scientists in Canada and India are proposing a surprising new solution to the global energy crisis “””milking” oil from the tiny, single-cell algae known as diatoms, renowned for their intricate, beautifully sculpted shells that resemble fine lacework.
Richard Gordon, T. V. Ramachandra, Durga Madhab Mahapatra, and Karthick Band note that some geologists believe that much of the world’s crude oil originated in diatoms, which produce an oily substance in their bodies. Barely one-third of a strand of hair in diameter, diatoms flourish in enormous numbers in oceans and other water sources. They die, drift to the seafloor, and deposit their shells and oil into the sediments. Estimates suggest that live diatoms could make 10ˆ’200 times as much oil per acre of cultivated area compared to oil seeds, Gordon says.
“Visualize three tons of moldy bread.” It’s not the most appealing image, perhaps, but it’s a description of the moist mound of growth media tended by bioscientist Cliff Bradley and his partner, chemical engineer Bob Kearns at their biofuel facility in Butte, Mont., that could help cut ethanol costs at the fuel pump.
Selected soil fungi that eat cellulose””the hard-to-digest, structural component of woody plants””thrive on the big pile of putrefaction from which Bradley and Kearns harvest certain powerful enzymes. The special enzymes allow standard biofuel plants to produce ethanol at lower cost by replacing some of the high-priced corn (starch) they process with cheaper corn stover “waste”“”the leaves, stalks, husks and cobs of the maize plant itself.
Replacing 35 percent of the corn (which goes for $4.28 a bushel) now used in a typical ethanol plant with inexpensive corn stover (at $65 per ton) could save a quarter on each a gallon of ethanol the facility produces, the researchers calculate. And that’s before any blender’s credit or tax benefits from government for processing cellulose. Bradley and Kearns say that the basic integrated starch-cellulose process also works for biofuels produced in Brazil where ethanol is distilled from sugarcane and bagasse, or highly cellulosic cane plant residue.
An estimated 500,000 radioactive objects remain left behind across the U.S., according to estimates from the Government Accountability Office.
The U.S. Department of Energy has recovered about 21,000 items as part of its Off-Site Source Recovery Project in New Mexico, but it currently faces a two-year waiting list and 9,000-item backlog — and is considering requests to add an additional 2,000 newly detected items a year.