Energy and Global Warming News for July 26th, 2010: Urban air pollutants can damage IQs before birth; Toxic fish could help Obama hit 2020 climate goal

coal-for-dummies.jpgScientific American:  Study in Krakow, Poland, corroborate NYC findings that links children’s lower IQ scores with mothers’ exposure to compounds created by burning of fossil fuels

In a sweltering summer in New York City back in 1999, Yolanda Baldwin was eight months pregnant with her first child. She lived near a gas station and across the street from an intersection choked with exhaust-spewing cars and buses. Sometimes the air was so thick with pollution that she could see it, breathe it, smell it, even taste it. And she often wondered what it might be doing to her unborn child.

Now Baldwin and several hundred other mothers whose sons and daughters have been monitored for a decade have an answer: Before children even take their first breath, common air pollutants breathed by their mothers during pregnancy may reduce their intelligence.

A pair of studies involving more than 400 women in two cities has found that 5-year-olds exposed in the womb to above-average levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, score lower on IQ tests. The compounds, created by the burning of fossil fuels, are ubiquitous in urban environments.

In African American and Dominican communities of New York City, 249 children are being monitored for the effects of environmental contaminants until the age of 11. And across the Atlantic, in Krakow, Poland, another 214 children are participating in a parallel study.

The findings in Poland, reported this spring, are strikingly similar to New York City’s: The children whose mothers had above-average exposure to PAHs scored about four points lower on IQ tests than children whose mothers had below-average exposure.

The difference in IQs is modest, but experts say it is enough to hamper school performance and perhaps lifelong learning. It is about the same deficit linked to low-level exposure to lead, a well-documented cause of reduced IQs in children.

For more, see Study: If you want smarter kids, shut coal plants, which found “elimination of prenatal exposure to coalburning emissions resulted in measurable benefits to children’s development.”

Bottom line: If you don’t want to your children to be dummies, join the fight to shut down dirty coal plants.

Toxic fish could help Obama hit 2020 climate goal

A proposed rule on mercury, a pollutant bad for fish and the people who eat too many of them, could help the Obama administration get near its short-term climate goal — even if Congress fails this year or next to pass a bill tackling greenhouse gases directly.

Senate Democrats crafting an energy bill have abandoned until September, and probably through the rest of the year, debate on climate measures like carbon caps on power plants and mandates for utilities to produce more power from renewable sources like wind and solar.

But while many people concerned about climate control have been focusing on the Senate, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), under its Administrator Lisa Jackson, has been quietly preparing to crack down on coal, the most carbon-intensive fuel, like never before….

Frank O’Donnell, the president of the environmental group Clean Air Watch, said that if a large chunk of the coal-fired power fleet went into retirement it could help the country exceed Obama’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by about 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020.

“We’ve thought for a long time that proper enforcement of the Clean Air Act, laws already on the books, can have the unintended benefit of really doing something on climate,” he said.

The environmental think tank the World Resources Institute said on Friday that aggressive action on existing federal government rules and state plans could reduce emissions almost as much as Obama wants by 2020. But it said implementation of the looming mercury and other rules could get even closer.

Utilities would likely build plants to burn natural gas, which emits half the carbon that coal does, as the main alternative. Alternative energy like wind and solar power, which provided the most new U.S. electricity capacity last year, could also become more attractive to utilities.

Who Killed the Climate Bill?

This is how a climate bill dies. On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced the bad news: “We don’t have the votes.” Without a single Republican backing the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act, the Senate’s version of a comprehensive energy bill, there was no point taking it to the floor, he explained. For now, there was no way to move forward.

FP asked five experts who have closely followed the debate for their verdict

Daschle and Dole: Bipartisanship possible on energy

It’s no secret that Republicans and Democrats are not working together productively in Washington right now. It is a growing phenomenon; as former Senate majority leaders “” and minority leaders”” we’ve seen plenty of partisan bickering, politics trumping policy and stalled national agendas.

But today we jointly see an opportunity for both parties to work together and do the right thing for the American people. That opportunity is a national energy policy. As the Senate wrangles behind closed doors to craft a plan, we urge them to follow a bipartisan course.

Massey Energy’s Blankenship: No shame, but plenty of blame

If Don Blankenship had any sense of shame, he’d crawl into a mine and hide.

As CEO of Massey Energy, he has presided over a coal company that had thousands of violations in recent years, leading up to the April explosion that killed 29 of his miners. The company now faces a federal criminal investigation into what the government has called negligent and reckless practices.

But Blankenship must have no sense of shame, because he visited the National Press Club last week to complain about “knee-jerk political reactions” to mine deaths and to demand that the Obama administration lighten regulations on his dirty and dangerous company. “We need to let businesses function as businesses,” an indignant Blankenship proclaimed. “Corporate business is what built America, in my opinion, and we need to let it thrive by, in a sense, leaving it alone.”

As federal panel probes oil spill, picture emerges of a series of iffy decisions

If there is no smoking gun in the Deepwater Horizon disaster, it is because there is smoke coming from so many places.

After months of oil-spill misery and endless recriminations about what happened and why, it is increasingly clear that the complex operation of drilling an exploratory well in the deep water of the Gulf of Mexico failed in a complex way. No single decision or misstep in isolation could have caused the blowout, but any number of decisions might have prevented it had they gone the other way.

The calamity, the evidence now suggests, was not an accident in the sense of a single unlucky or freak event, but rather an engineered catastrophe — one that followed naturally from decisions of BP managers and other oil company workers on the now-sunken rig.

Can Carbon Be Cut Without Climate Legislation?

Carbon cap-and-trade is dead””at least for this political lifetime. And while the circular firing squad among Democrats and greens has already begun, it’s worth taking a deep breath and remembering that there are other tools that can be used to deal with climate change. As TIME’s Joe Klein points out, the Supreme Court ruled more than three years ago that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has the authority to regulate greenhouse gases as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act. The EPA has already begun to effectively regulate carbon emissions from automobiles with its tougher fuel efficiency standards, but it’s not yet clear how the agency might work to regulate emissions from electric utilities or other sectors.

As a new report from the World Resources Institute (WRI) shows, regulations could have a widely varying effect on U.S. greenhouse gas emissions over the coming two decades, depending on how aggressive the government wants to be””but even the tightest rules would be unlikely to reduce emissions enough to avoid dangerous climate change.

Exploring Algae as Fuel

In a laboratory where almost all the test tubes look green, the tools of modern biotechnology are being applied to lowly pond scum. Foreign genes are being spliced into algae and native genes are being tweaked.

Different strains of algae are pitted against one another in survival-of-the-fittest contests in an effort to accelerate the evolution of fast-growing, hardy strains.

The goal is nothing less than to create superalgae, highly efficient at converting sunlight and carbon dioxide into lipids and oils that can be sent to a refinery and made into diesel or jet fuel.

42 Responses to Energy and Global Warming News for July 26th, 2010: Urban air pollutants can damage IQs before birth; Toxic fish could help Obama hit 2020 climate goal

  1. Prokaryotes says:

    Gulf travel sector could lose $22.7B
    The Gulf Coast region’s travel industry could lose up to $22.7 billion over the next three years as a result of BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill if no action is taken to help the already damaged industry in the region,

  2. Prokaryotes says:

    The Senate Punts Recklessly on Energy and Climate

    In a breath-taking act of historic and inter-generational irresponsibility, forty-one Senators or more walked away from a win-win solution for our environment, our economy, and our national security.

  3. Prokaryotes says:

    Who Cooked the Planet?

    Never say that the gods lack a sense of humor. I bet they’re still chuckling on Olympus over the decision to make the first half of 2010 — the year in which all hope of action to limit climate change died — the hottest such stretch on record. If you want to understand opposition to climate action, follow the money. The economy as a whole wouldn’t be significantly hurt if we put a price on carbon, but certain industries — above all, the coal and oil industries — would. And those industries have mounted a huge disinformation campaign to protect their bottom lines.

  4. Theodore says:

    Conservative motives for opposing restrictions on fossil fuel air pollution are now clear – they are preparing a new generation of supportive voters.

  5. Prokaryotes says:

    BP Response Workers Report Low Morale, Lack of Pay, Sickness

    BP oil disaster response workers are reporting endemic problems, such as not being paid on time, low morale, rampant sickness, equipment failures and being lied to regularly.

    “Yesterday was a catastrophe,” one worker, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Truthout. “People are waiting 2-3 hours for their paychecks to be brought to them and I know for a fact three people that didn’t get paid and no reason was given.”

  6. Prokaryotes says:

    In regards to population growth and space colonization

    Millions of Earths? Talk causes a stir … our galaxy could harbor 100 million Earths

  7. Prokaryotes says:

    Regional and State Interests May Dominate Future Climate and Energy Policy

  8. Wit'sEnd says:

    A mother’s exposure to toxins doesn’t just reduce her child’s intellectual potential – it gives them cancer. Offspring are most vulnerable to environmental pollutions when they are the earliest stages of development.

    It never ceases to amaze me how much personal and ecological degradation we are willing to accept in order to perpetuate our access to fossil and bio-fuel powered and produced toys. You’d thing we could give up just a few – quads? muscle cars? ridiculously huge lawns? sport fishing? ski mobiles? christmas lights? plastic bags and take-out food containers?

    …to stave off the day of reckoning that our children will inherit – an uninhabitable climate??

    oh, never mind. I guess not.

  9. david g swanger says:

    Joe: though the Russia and other high temps story list 4 comments, I don’t see any of them when I click on the story.

    [JR: Darn you bad html code from Russian websites! Fixed, I think. Thanks.]

  10. Prokaryotes says:

    Federal records show steady stream of oil spills in gulf since 1964

    The oil and gas industry’s offshore safety and environmental record in the Gulf of Mexico has become a key point of debate over future drilling, but that record has been far worse than is commonly portrayed by many industry leaders and lawmakers.

  11. Prokaryotes says:

    Green’s monstrous growth

    Green, the catchall ecoconscious term, increasingly means greenbacks for businesses. Companies are eagerly climbing aboard the sustainablity bandwagon, as record unemployment, sluggish job growth and frozen credit markets sap business. Yet, hope remains high for a green economy based on environmental lifestyle products and practices that focus on reducing waste and conserving natural resources. Green building is already a mainstream part of architectural design and construction.

    “The green building market has basically tripled for the last two years, which is a good sign that it’s flourishing,” said Rick Van Diepen, 2010 president of the Nevada chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council. “Developers and owners are seeing the value in green building as a competitive differentiator. The bottom-line decisions are becoming paramount in terms of lowering operating costs.”

  12. Prokaryotes says:

    Say this 3 times “Green’s monstrous growth”

  13. Solar Jim says:

    Who cooked the planet? That’s easy. The people (dictators and nation states) who cooked the books.

    Every physical feature of the planet can be described as one of two phenomena: matter or energy. For fuel, chose one. Hint: matter comes in three phases (solid, liquid, gas). If these “fuels” are not “energy resources” but materials instead, then the entire Western economy is based on pure scientific and ecologic/economic fraud.

    I can show you trillions of dollars of annual global subsidies to prove it.

  14. Mike says:

    Medical examiners use differing criteria to tally heat-related deaths

    By Lena H. Sun
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Tuesday, July 27, 2010

    It’s nature’s stealth killer. It’s not always the medical examiner’s prime suspect. And the deadly toll it exacts often becomes clear only well after it has left the scene. …

  15. Prokaryotes says:

    An icy retreat – the evolution of Arctic sea ice

  16. Prokaryotes says:

    The Poisoning
    It’s the biggest environmental disaster in American history – and BP is making it worse

  17. Prokaryotes says:

    Waste heat vs greenhouse warming

  18. Prokaryotes says:

    840,000 gallons of oil leak into creek

    A leaking pipeline spilled about 840,000 gallons of oil into a creek leading to the Kalamazoo River today according to estimates from Enbridge Energy Partners, the company taking responsibility for the spill.

    The leak resulted from a pipeline malfunction that was still under investigation tonight, said Tom Fridel, general manager for Enbridge Liquids Pipelines in Chicago. The 30-inch pipeline carries about 8 million gallons of oil per day from Griffith, Indiana, to Sarnia, Ontario, according to Enbridge.

  19. Prokaryotes says:

    China says air pollution worsening

    China’s air pollution increased this year for the first time since 2005, the environmental protection ministry has said, due to sandstorms, a rise in construction and industrial projects, and more cars.

    The ministry found that the number of “good air quality days” in 113 major cities across the nation had dropped 0.3 percentage … These cities had not recorded a fall in the number of good air quality days since 2005 … The ministry also found that more than a quarter of surface water in China was contaminated, and fit only for industrial or agricultural use.

    Acid rain was also a problem in the first half of the year — out of 443 cities the ministry monitored, 189 suffered from the harmful precipitation. And in eight cities, including a district of Shanghai, the rain that fell for the first six months was constantly acid China says air pollution worsening

    China’s air pollution increased this year for the first time since 2005, the environmental protection ministry has said, due to sandstorms, a rise in construction and industrial projects, and more cars.

    The ministry found that the number of “good air quality days” in 113 major cities across the nation had dropped 0.3 percentage … These cities had not recorded a fall in the number of good air quality days since 2005 … The ministry also found that more than a quarter of surface water in China was contaminated, and fit only for industrial or agricultural use.

    Acid rain was also a problem in the first half of the year — out of 443 cities the ministry monitored, 189 suffered from the harmful precipitation. And in eight cities, including a district of Shanghai, the rain that fell for the first six months was constantly acid

  20. fj2 says:

    “The Big Green Buy,” Christian Parenti, August 2/9, 1010, The Nation

    ” . . . federal, stat and local government constitute more than 38 percent of our GDP . . . ”

    “October 2009, when President Obama quietly signed Executive Order 13514, which directs all federal agencies . . . to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions . . . ”

    ” . . . a 28 percent greenhouse gas reduction by 2020. The stimulus package passed in 2009 included $32.7 billion for the Energy Department to tackle climate change . . . “

  21. Lewis Cleverdon says:

    From the washpost article on identifying heat-related deaths. –

    “Western Europe also has wrestled with the issue of how to calculate the death toll. After an eight-day heat wave in 2003, initial estimates put the number of heat-related deaths at 15,000 to 18,000, according to the CDC’s Luber. More recent estimates put the total closer to 70,000, he said.”

    This is news to me. The widely publicized official figure was of 30,000 deaths, and there’s been no publicity for the more recent closer-to-70,000 assessment the CDC reports.

    I’d like to see a Blair-ite try to defend his poodling of Bush’s serial warfare projects in response to a comparative smidgen of lives lost to terrorism, while he did damn all to draw a line with Bush over climate despite ~70,000 being killed by its destabilization.

    That one needs a citizen’s arrest and a one-way trip to the Hague.



  22. Prokaryotes says:

    Time to recognize the price we pay for carbon
    It is time to reframe the debate and recognize* the price we already pay for oil and other carbon-based fuels.

  23. Prokaryotes says:

    Fatal landslides in 2010: a half term report

    As of the end of 30th June I had recorded a total of 235 fatal landslide events worldwide, with a distribution by month that looks like this

    This is the highest number of fatal slides for the first six months of the year that I have recorded to date (i.e. since 2003).

  24. Prokaryotes says:

    Today we’re shutting down BP stations all over Central London

  25. Prokaryotes says:

    Texas: Air Quality Decision Is Appealed

    State officials on Monday appealed the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to overturn a state air permitting program. The E.P.A. ruled last month that the state’s flexible permit program violated the Clean Air Act, which requires state permits to set limits on each of the dozens of individual production units inside a plant. The state’s program set a general limit on pollutants an entire facility can release. The E.P.A. action will force 125 refineries and petrochemical plants to invest millions of dollars to get new permits. In his appeal, Attorney General Greg Abbott said the state program “improves air quality while helping regulators and regulated entities operate more efficiently.”

  26. Raul M says:

    Is there such a thing as a solar appliance.
    Something with a big solar panel to the
    appliance box to the plug to the elec.
    Outlet. It has (?) a saftey cut off to monitor
    that it feeds elec. to an active sys. only.
    It works as a appliance but feeds elec. into
    the grid rather than taking elec.
    Just thinking.

  27. fj2 says:

    Coming from Shanghai, China the SAIC Yez concept car is conceived to have a negative carbon footprint.

  28. fj2 says:

    Check out must-see video about the future of Chinese mobility at

  29. Bob Wallace says:

    Raul – I’ve seen one air conditioner which has solar panels attached to its top. But I doubt this is a good way to power AC.

    You’d have to put the unit on the south wall of the building. That’s not going to be possible with a lot of buildings. And you’d have a problem if the building had an overhanging roof. I designed my house so that the south wall is shaded in the summer. Furthermore, you’d be asking the AC to use the hottest available outside air rather than using the cooler air on the north side.

    You’d have even more problems with other appliances. You wouldn’t really want your refrigerator out in the sun.

    Better to put the panels on the roof or out in the yard and the appliances where they are most used. That way all appliances can share the power from the panels, extra power can be sold to the gird, and when the panels aren’t producing you can buy back the power you need.

  30. Prokaryotes says:

    Ocean Acidification Changing Fishes’ Sense of Smell, Predators’ Scent Becomes Irresistible

  31. Prokaryotes says:

    Oil spewing from well near Louisiana marsh

  32. Ziyu says:

    Ol’ Don of Massey is openly vouching for lassiez faire capitalism even though that recently led to the death of his miners. He thinks there should’ve been less regulation to let business be business and so he can “pursue happiness.” When asked what he would’ve done to prevent this from happening, he said the probably would’ve sued the MSHA. And who do these people donate campaign contributions to? You guessed it, Tea Party-supported Republicans.

  33. Ziyu says:

    Oh yeah. “This” was referring to the mine explosion.

  34. Prokaryotes says:

    Spread of Deadly Cryptococcal Disease in U.S. Northwest Linked to Global Warming
    Cryptococcal infection, once thought to be an exclusively tropical disease, has killed 60 people in the Pacific Northwest as of July, and health experts suspect climate change is involved

  35. Prokaryotes says:

    Biodiesel from algae may not be as green as it seems
    How we farm algae is crucial to making algal biodiesel environmentally viable, says Anna Stephenson at the University of Cambridge. She has developed a computer model that calculates the carbon footprint of producing, refining and burning algal biodiesel.

    Making algal biodiesel in clear tubes has a carbon footprint nearly four times that of producing diesel

    The solution may lie in closed reactors designed to circulate algae for little energy outlay, says Benjamin Taylor, a chemical engineer at the University of Cambridge. He is developing a system of tubes containing baffles that restrict the flow of the water and algae in such a way as to create a swirling motion. This ensures the algal culture is constantly mixed and uses just 4 per cent of the energy consumed by conventional tubular reactors

  36. Prokaryotes says:

    Another reason for space colonization

    Potentially Hazardous Asteroid to Collide With Earth in 2182

  37. Prokaryotes says:

    Marc Morano Manufacturing the Hype…. again

  38. Prokaryotes says:

    NASA Puts the “Green” in Its Other Mission: Developing Revolutionary, Energy-Efficient Airplanes

  39. Prokaryotes says:

    EPA slows approval for Canada-Texas oil pipeline

    White House could intervene as environmental security takes equal place next to energy security as concern of national interest

  40. Prokaryotes says:

    Rains increase phosphorus dumping into Lake Erie
    New research shows that a record amount of dissolved phosphorus has been washing into two of Lake Erie’s biggest tributaries in northern Ohio.

    Heidelberg University researchers say the amounts measured in the Maumee River from April through June are the highest they’ve been since they started monitoring the pollutants 33 years ago. Levels in the Sandusky River near Fremont are at their second highest rate in 35 years

    The researchers say this all means that algae blooms in Lake Erie could become a bigger problem. Farm fertilizers that contain phosphorous are the main source of the pollutant in the rivers. It’s likely that heavy rains in the spring and early summer contributed to the high amounts.

  41. Prokaryotes says:

    Comedy – More signs of alien invasion

  42. Joe Earth says:

    We already know that some chemicals can travel through the placenta and affect the fetus while in the womb. And that poor people tend to live in environments that are more polluted, and they don’t have the political clout to demand that facilities that produce toxins be located away from way they live.

    Nothing new.