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KuangSi2An 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 Under the outdated act, companies don't have to prove that substances they release into the air or water are safe.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

  • 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.

Climate Change, Energy, and Technology

  • 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.

Climate Change in US Politics

  • 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.

Climate Policy Abroad

  • 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!

Water and Natural Resources

Wildlife and Endangered Species

  • 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.


Originally posted to rb137 on Sun Oct 03, 2010 at 07:00 PM PDT.

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