Biofuels Deemed a Greenhouse Threat
By ELISABETH ROSENTHAL
Almost all biofuels used today cause more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional fuels if the full emissions costs of producing these "green" fuels are taken into account, two studies being published Thursday have concluded.
The benefits of biofuels have come under increasing attack in recent months, as scientists took a closer look at the global environmental cost of their production. These latest studies, published in the prestigious journal Science, are likely to add to the controversy.
These studies for the first time take a detailed, comprehensive look at the emissions effects of the huge amount of natural land that is being converted to cropland globally to support biofuels development.
Motivated by a Tax, Irish Spurn Plastic Bags
DUBLIN — There is something missing from this otherwise typical bustling cityscape. There are taxis and buses. There are hip bars and pollution. Every other person is talking into a cellphone. But there are no plastic shopping bags, the ubiquitous symbol of urban life.
In 2002, Ireland passed a tax on plastic bags; customers who want them must now pay 33 cents per bag at the register. There was an advertising awareness campaign. And then something happened that was bigger than the sum of these parts.
Within weeks, plastic bag use dropped 94 percent. Within a year, nearly everyone had bought reusable cloth bags, keeping them in offices and in the backs of cars. Plastic bags were not outlawed, but carrying them became socially unacceptable — on a par with wearing a fur coat or not cleaning up after one’s dog.
A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, in San Francisco, voided the new regulations for 2008-2011 model year vehicles and told the Transportation Department to produce new rules taking into account the value of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The court, siding with 4 environmental groups and 13 states and cities, also asked the government to explain why it still treated light trucks — which include pickups, sport utility vehicles and minivans — more mildly than passenger cars.
Under the rejected rule, the average fuel economy of light trucks was to rise to 23.5 miles a gallon in 2010, up from the current standard of 22.5 m.p.g., but still well below the current standard for passenger cars of 27.5 m.p.g.
The ruling, which is likely to be appealed to the United States Supreme Court, represents a major setback for both the auto industry and the White House at a time of growing public concern over the rising price of gasoline and the issue of climate change.
Lawyers specializing in environmental issues said on Thursday that the decision had significant implications beyond the automobile industry’s struggles over fuel-economy standards.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
VICTORIA - The B.C. Liberals have issued a comprehensive defence of their plan to widen Highway 1 and twin the Port Mann Bridge, saying it will bring almost $4 billion in benefits and have a "negligible" impact on regional air quality.
The government's case is set out in four volumes of material, released last week as part of an application to the environmental assessment office for approval of the project.
The Liberals propose to build the estimated $2-billion project via a public-private partnership, with five years of construction and a 35-year operating agreement all financed by tolls on the bridge crossing. The government submission argues the project will benefit the economy through improved movement of goods, commuters through reduced congestion, and the region through improved transportation.
It calculates a net benefit of $3.8 billion over the 35-year operating agreement, even after discounting the cost of construction.
While that cost-benefit analysis relies on a number of debatable assumptions, the most controversial part of the submission is likely to be the report on regional air quality and greenhouse gas emissions.
By JOSEPH KAHN and JIM YARDLEY
BEIJING, Aug. 25 - No country in history has emerged as a major industrial power without creating a legacy of environmental damage that can take decades and big dollops of public wealth to undo.
But just as the speed and scale of China's rise as an economic power have no clear parallel in history, so its pollution problem has shattered all precedents. Environmental degradation is now so severe, with such stark domestic and international repercussions, that pollution poses not only a major long-term burden on the Chinese public but also an acute political challenge to the ruling Communist Party. And it is not clear that China can rein in its own economic juggernaut.
Public health is reeling. Pollution has made cancer China's leading cause of death, the Ministry of Health says. Ambient air pollution alone is blamed for hundreds of thousands of deaths each year. Nearly 500 million people lack access to safe drinking water.
Chinese cities often seem wrapped in a toxic gray shroud. Only 1 percent of the country's 560 million city dwellers breathe air considered safe by the European Union. Beijing is frantically searching for a magic formula, a meteorological deus ex machina, to clear its skies for the 2008 Olympics.
Environmental woes that might be considered catastrophic in some countries can seem commonplace in China: industrial cities where people rarely see the sun; children killed or sickened by lead poisoning or other types of local pollution; a coastline so swamped by algal red tides that large sections of the ocean no longer sustain marine life.
China is choking on its own success. The economy is on a historic run, posting a succession of double-digit growth rates. But the growth derives, now more than at any time in the recent past, from a staggering expansion of heavy industry and urbanization that requires colossal inputs of energy, almost all from coal, the most readily available, and dirtiest, source.
For Athletes, an Invisible Traffic Hazard
By GRETCHEN REYNOLDS
SUSAN JAMES, a 50-year-old probation officer in Bakersfield, Calif., has been a competitive runner for almost three decades. "I've spent a lot of hours running through this city," she said.
Which is beginning to worry her.
"Twenty years ago, I didn't have asthma or allergies," she said. Today, she has both, probably due to the same improbable cause. "My doctor told me I'm allergic to Bakersfield air," she said. "I'm actually allergic to it."
In May, the American Lung Association called Bakersfield the third-sootiest city in the country, behind Los Angeles and Pittsburgh.
The news didn't surprise Ms. James. "Sometimes my chest aches" midrun, she said. To combat the pollution, she may soon join a gym for the first time. "I've got a lot of years to run still, and I'm not sure if I can do it outside," she said.
Air pollution is on the minds of many athletes this summer, especially those who, in a reverse of Ms. James's plan, have moved their workouts outside.
Fitness chat rooms resound with worried postings about air quality. As one cyclist wrote on SoCalCycling .com, "During the summer months, I have to ride in the morning and be home no later than 11, otherwise I will feel miserable and cough all day long."
By Elsa McLaren and agencies
Drivers of the most polluting vehicles will be charged £25 to enter London's congestion charge zone under plans announced today by Ken Livingstone.
The London Mayor said he wants to introduce an emissions-based congestion charge fee in an attempt to reduce pollution in the capital that will hit the pockets of drivers of the most heavily-polluting vehicles.
Vehicles in the excise duty Band G with carbon-dioxide emission above 225g per km, would pay the top charge, while drivers of the least polluting cars, like the G-Wiz, would be charged nothing under the proposals.