An Oregon State University toxicology team has been sampling Gulf of Mexico water for contamination over the course of the BP spill and recovery. Although this work is not yet published, they report finding a 40-fold increase in often carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic compounds between May and June. They are now sampling with a technique that can select only the chemicals that are bioavailable -- the ones likely to make us sick and able to move into the food chain.
This study is crucial to understanding how chemical dispersants and exposure to UV light -- both factors that can crack hydrocarbons -- act on crude and affect PAH levels and bioavailability of the toxins created in an oil spill. The "deployed dispersant" study is pertinant in the BP spill, because they sprayed so much of the chemical onto the water's surface.
Why can BP pump 1.8 million gallons of dispersant that hasn't been tested for safety into the gulf? They invoked the Toxic Substances and Control Act of 1976, which is in desperate need of reform. Under the outdated act, companies don't have to prove that substances they release into the air or water are safe. In some cases, they don't even have to reveal what is in their product. In this case they only had to demonstrate that the dispersant breaks up oil. The EPA, however, is now testing the intact dispersant, Corexit, for toxicity. The OSU study will help us understand its inherent toxicity as well as how it acts on hydrocarbons in the wild.
Legislation to reform this law has been bogged down in congress for years. Richard Denison, Senior Scientist at The Envoronmental Defense Fund, calls this a "teachable moment."
More BP and Other Fossil Foolish News
- Panel probes Obama Administration decisions after Gulf spill. White House appointed commission declared investigatory hearing where Bob Graham likens the mistakes in estimating Deepwater Horizon's magnitude to Custer at Little Big Horn.
- Infallible Halliburton is still pointing fingers. They blame BP's design, and their refusal to take safety precautions. They also claim that the well design prevented them from completing full cement bond log tests.
- UK softens international criticism of offshore drilling. In the fight to offset international scrutiny of offshore drilling after Deepwater Horizon, the score is Britain 1, Germany 0.
- Chevron to start drilling off UK Coast. The British government moves boldly forward giving Chevron an okay to begin deepwater drilling off of their coast. See also the Royal Society's new statement on climate change below.
- In the US, natural gas drillers protest anti-frackers on EPA panel. The Independent Petroleum Association of America prefers to stack the panel with fracking shills. Read a .pdf version of the letter here.
Climate Change, Energy, and Technology
- US tightens rules on offshore drilling, and leaves the active moratorium intact. Oil executives are furious at the new rules which address well casing and cementing, blowout preventers, safety certification, along with emergency response and worker training -- to be in place when the current drilling freeze ends.
- Obama urged to fight China on unfair tactics to control green energy tech sector. More than 180 US lawmakers, primarily Democrats, are urging Obama to fight China's use of predatory trade practices that give them an advantage in green technology.
- DOE addresses China's monopoly in producing rare earth metals. These materials are used through the green tech sector for applications such as fuel cells, wind based generators, and energy-efficient lighting. Because of the high demand for these minerals in new technologies, the UN urges recycling of rare earth metals.
- Many greentech companies are walking dead. For lack of working capital, many green sector companies are dead in the water. The pool of investors has shrunk since 2009, as the industry is dogged by necessary research. People do not invest in a product when the R&D time it takes for release to market is longer than the length of the patent. Oh, that privatizing science again.
- Bloom Energy installs fuel cells at Adobe. Bloom Energy announced its largest single installation to date on the roof of Adobe’s headquarters in San Jose, Calif. These fuel cells will be one of the first to run on carbon-free biogas.
- Boeing is building a solar powered airplane prototype that could fly non-stop for five years. The application, however, is military. It will fly at 60,000 ft to collect non-stop surveillance and intel.
Climate Change in US Politics
- Big Oil spends half a billion dollars to fight climate change legislation. The Center for American Progress Action Fund published a study that found the 35 top spenders among companies and trade associations dumped more than $500 million on campaign contributions and lobbying effort between January 2009 and June 2010 solely to defeat clean energy legislation.
- Emanuel's Replacement Might Calm the Climate Debate. Pete Rouse is known to be green, and good at developing effective legislation, and he's a closer. Now if we can get him past his camera shyness.
- Salazar warns against co-opting science. DOI Secretary Ken Salazar laid out the codes of conduct for scientific activities and the use of science in decision making, prohibiting interference by political players in science-based decisions, and protections for whistleblowers. It also shields scientists from coersion to alter their findings.
- Obama says energy a top priority next year. Climate change took a backseat to the economy and health care during the past two years, but Obama is now ready to address our fossil fuel dependence either by piecemeal or by legislation.
- EPA advisory splits over CO2 rules. The EPA panel advising Obama is dealocked over which rules to enforce in 2011.
- Controvery dims hope for lame duck climate legislation. Disagreement in an overcrowded lame duck schedule makes chances for a quick bill grim, according to Dick Durbin, who calls this attempt at legislation a long shot. Perhaps we will call this the foie gras session of congress.
- Environmentalists muse about climate change legislation in a more conservative congress. Eco groups are increasingly sober about prospects of passing ambitious legislation without some serious political climate change. This is in spite of Obama's pledge to move a more comprehensive energy bill in 2011.
Climate Policy Abroad
- Climate change emerging as core issue in the global fight against poverty. The UN session on the Millenium Development Goals last week determined that climate change is not only our greatest global environmental issue -- it is our greatest human rights issue, as well.
- The Royal Society, which has 43 skeptical members, issues a clarified summary of climate change science. The British Royal Society highlighted uncertainties in warming predictions, stating that it is impossible to know how the Earth's climate will change or what effects that change will have. At least two members that advise the denier think-tank Global Warming Policy Foundation are pleased. Download a summary of this thoroughly cooked British cuisine here.
Climate negotiators meet in Tianjin next week to plan alternatives as climate treaty falters.As the prospects for a global climate treaty dim, a number of bilateral agreements to cut greenhouse gas emissions are on the board. Experts warn that an international treaty is necessary, and agreements between countries are only a stop gap. EU Climate Action Commissioner Connie Hedegaard expects the talks in Cancún will be "very difficult".
- China issues its first provincial regulation on climate change. Qinghai is the first Chinese province to establish a law holding local governments and state-owned enterprises responsible for actions that impact climate. This law is intended to protect the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, which is fragile and sensitive to climate change.
- Scotland to go renewable by 2025. In a great show of environmental leadership, Scotland drew a map to an energy economy that meets 80% of their need with renewables over the next ten years. The Scots are confident that they can meet 100% of their energy needs with renewables by 2025, and plan to export their energy surplus. Slàinte mhòr agad!
- Environmentalists welcome new Argentinian law that prohibits mineral extraction from areas that support Andean glaciers. After a long fight with entrenched interests, this law protects freshwater reserves by restricting mineral, oil, and gas extraction near glaciers. Argentina, along the Chilean border, holds the largest glaciers in South America.
Water and Natural Resources
- Impact on world's river threatens water security for 5 billion. The shocker is that the highest threat levels from toxicity and pollution are in the US and Europe, according to this study.
- Energy production is pushing water to the choke point. Energy is the second largest water consuming industry in the US, after agriculture. With freshwater sources dwindling because of climate change, we are faced with an energy vs. water conundrum.
- Andes' tropial ice fields shrinking, unstable water supply threatens Peruvian farming. Peru contains 70 per cent of the world’s tropical ice fields. 22% of the Peruvian glaciers - equivalent to 10 years’ water supply for Lima -- have been lost over the past 30 years.
- The disappearing world of the last of the Arctic hunters. A report on the Inughuit people as they watch the sea ice melting under their feet.
Wildlife and Endangered Species
- Vanishing rainforest costs $5 trillion per year. The UK government is championing a system of metrics, called the Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity, that identify the financial value of natural resources.
- African penguin wins protection. The Interior Department listed the African penguin, the only nesting penguin on the African continent, as endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.
- 22% of plants on verge of extinction. The Royal Botanic Gardens of Kew, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and the Natural History Museum, reports that more than one in five plant species are at risk for extinction.
- Hey! Endangered critters! Move it or lose it! Experts say that Managed Relocation is the only way to save some species in the face of climate change.