This Week in Eco News - March 8, 2013

Happy Friday! We're kicking off this week's compilation of Eco News stories with a link to our new Best of the Web Video feature. We'll alternate weekly to share the best in food, water and energy videos from around the web along with the news stories we follow, circulate internally and publish synopses of throughout the week. You can find them all week long — in real time — in the column to the right, just above our Best of the Web Video viewer. You can also sign up to receive Eco News via email each Thursday. If you see a story you think we should include, drop us a line at [email protected].

Best of the Web Video - Energy

The Energy Bills ''Round The House''
Energy efficiency is boring, you say? We think the Energy Bills - Big Bill and Little Bill - will change your mind as they help a homeowner learn a few things about making her home energy bills, well, little. Take Action: Make sustainable energy choices


Slaughter and Waxman Introduce Bill to Gather More Data on Antibiotics in Ag
This week, Representatives Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Louise Slaughter (D-NY) introduced legislation dubbed the Delivering Antimicrobial Transparency in Animals (DATA) Act which would require drug manufacturers to obtain and provide better information to the USDA on how antibiotics are being used in animals raised for food. [Food Safety News]

Food Industry Failing to Manage Animal Welfare, Warns Report
A groundbreaking report on the world's leading food companies conducted by Business Benchmark of Farm Animal Welfare reveals that a majority of those companies are failing to properly manage and report on farm animal welfare. [Food Navigator]

India's Rice Revolution
A new report out of India gives even more credence to the idea that sustainable agriculture can feed the world. A group of poverty-stricken Indian rice and potato farmers harvested confirmed world-record yields of rice and potatoes - and they did it completely without GMOs or chemicals of any kind. [The Guardian]

Food, Drink Industries Undermine Health Policy, Study Finds
Researchers from Australia, Britain, Brazil and elsewhere have released a study criticizing food and drink industries for using strategies similar to those used by the tobacco industry to undermine public health policies. [Chicago Tribune]

Drought Takes Its Toll on a Texas Business and a Town
The drought is causing major problems for the Texas beef industry. Earlier this month, a West Texas Cargill cattle processing plant suspended operations, putting about 2,300 residents of Plainview out of the job, more than 10 percent of the town's population. [New York Times]

Vilsack: Under Sequestration, USDA Cannot Avoid Furloughing Meat Inspectors
The sequester will cause cuts to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), which means potentially 2,100 fewer inspections at domestic and foreign facilities that manufacture food products as well as a leave of absence for all FSIS employees for approximately two weeks. Obviously this doesn't bode well for food safety. [Food Safety News]

Junk Food Consumption in Pregnancy May Lead to Childhood Junk Food Addiction: Study
A new study shows that when pregnant mothers consume junk food, they may be predisposing their children to junk food addiction. The research reveals that high intake of junk food during pregnancy can change the development of opioid pathways in the brains of unborn children, making them less sensitive to opioids which are released while consuming foods high in sugar and fat - and therefore they would have to eat more to achieve a feel good response. [Food Navigator]

Indiana Joins Wyoming in Moving 'Ag-Gag' Closer to Law
The Indiana Senate has passed a bill that would make it illegal to photograph or film inside agriculture operations without the consent of the owner. The bill is just one vote away from the Governor's desk, following in the footsteps of a similar Wyoming measure also about to become a law. These Ag-Gag bills are becoming more and more common, and recently three more have been introduced in Pennsylvania, Tennessee and New Mexico. [Food Safety News]

Scientists Warn of Sperm Count Declines Linked to Pesticide Exposure
It's widely known that pesticides have caused devastating declines in bee and bird populations and other wildlife, and now research out of George Washington University shows that male virility is also a casualty of agricultural poisons. The study, which took into account data from all over the world, found "significant associations between exposure to pesticides and semen quality indicators." [Beyond Pesticides]

Give Me Liberty, And Give Me Government-Subsidized Broccoli
A new study by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health reveals that the American public is A-OK with government policies and new public health laws intended to promote healthy eating. [NPR]


Q&A: Brian Richter and Frederick Kaufman on Market-Based Water Pricing
Here's a debate about whether affixing prices to water will help drive down its demand or impair access to what is considered a basic human right, which puts Brian Richter, of The Nature Conservancy, against Frederick Kaufman, a journalism professor and author, respectively. [Circle of Blue]

Briny Water Flows into Southwestern PA Streams
What are old, unused coal mines in Southwestern Pennsylvania good for? Well, how about illegal fracking wastewater dumping, as shown by Monongahela River tributary water testing done by citizen advocates and their West Virginia University supporters. Of course, the EPA, state DEP, local and state officials won't return their calls. [Public Source]

Study: Climate Change Impact on Stream Flow Varies by Location
Stream flows - or the amount and velocity of water in a waterway - are contingent on how much rain or snow falls. Also, the "geology of the landscape and its effect on how fast water moves is equally important," according to the co-author of a new hydrology study. This is especially important for water resource managers as they prepare for the changes in climate and precipitation variability. [Gazette Times]

Public Opinions of Water in Florida
A recent survey of Floridians shows that they are in favor of clean water and they desire abundant amounts of the wet stuff. The big question the author has is whether state residents are willing to enact systematic reforms that ensure water is taken care of. [Watery Foundation]

Thin Snowpack in West Signals Summer of Drought
Drought-stricken parts of the American West - like Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada - have a foreboding sense of heightened dryness what with this winter's light mountain snowpacks, the primary source of freshwater for this region. [New York Times]

New Research: Louisiana Coast Faces Highest Rate of Sea-level Rise Worldwide
Two preliminary NOAA reports have identified the Louisiana coast as the world's most threatened by fast-rising sea levels, which is further exacerbated by the rapid coastal land subsidence (i.e., sinking). To avoid the potential four-foot coastal submersion, the only solution is to let the Mississippi River, carrying its land-creating sediment, to flow more freely and rebuild the Delta. [The Lens]

Satellite Tracking of Middle East Aquifers Points to the End of 'Data Denial'
Our friend, Jay Famiglietti, gets attention in Dot Earth on his report showing incredibly unsustainable groundwater withdrawal in the Middle East. And as Andrew Revkin notes, we now have incontrovertible evidence that we are in the midst of a global water crisis based on humanity's behavior and water use patterns. [New York Times]

Experts Propose Lake Champlain, River Study
A joint US-Canada workgroup has proposed a study of flooding management plans for Lake Champlain and the Richelieu River that drains it, based on historic and recent flooding events, most recently 2011. [AP]

The Water Footprint: Water in the Supply Chain
As creator of the water footprint concept, Arjen Hoekstra explains reasons why a company might want to reduce their supply chains water footprint, including corporate responsibility and strengthening image and branding. But the most important reason? Many businesses actually face serious risks related to freshwater shortage in their operations or supply chain. [The Broker]

Surprising Water Usage Numbers [Infographic]
This nice infographic shows the water footprints of certain items, mainly food, and offers a few suggestions of what items could be replaced to lower one's water footprint. The favorite suggestion? Replacing milk with beer. [Loch Ness Water Gardens]


With Two Ships Damaged, Shell Suspends Arctic Drilling
Shell's two Arctic drill ships were badly damaged this winter, and are on their way to Asia for repairs. The company will not drill during the small window of opportunity in summer 2013, and Shell acknowledges that its Arctic drilling adventure "has been much more difficult than it anticipated." [New York Times]

Shell Sees Solar as Biggest Energy Source After Exiting It
Four years ago, Royal Dutch Shell abandoned its solar power efforts, but now a new report by the corporation says that solar may expand into the world's biggest source of energy in the next half century. Real visionaries, they are. [Renewable Energy World]

Natural Gas Dethrones King Coal As Power Companies Look To Future
It used to be that half of US power plants burned coal to make electricity, but now that's down to about one-third thanks to cheaper natural gas. But once a power plant is built, it's locked in for at least 20-30 years, so the volatile nature of natural gas process could present big problems down the road. Now is the time to build wind and solar capacity to head off that problem. [NPR]

Activists Dismayed by State Dept's Environmental Assessment of Keystone XL
The US State Department released its draft environmental review for the Keystone XL pipeline's route late on Friday - the classic strategy to avoid media coverage - which says that the pipeline will have little impact on tar sands oil extraction. In other words, that oil's going to be extracted, pipeline or no. [Earth Island Journal]

US Energy Intensity Projected to Continue Its Steady Decline Through 2040
Energy consumption relative to the nation's gross domestic product will decline steadily over the next three decades. Residential "energy intensity" alone is expected to decline by 27 percent by 2040 (from 2005 levels). [Energy Information Administration]

4 Grand Challenges to Energy, Food, and Water
With global demand for food, water, and energy forecast to grow by 35, 40 and 50 percent, respectively, by 2030 the world will need to face the challenges of shifting the global energy mix, ensuring food security, revisiting global agreements and using technology to improve governance. [World Resources Institute]

Homes Show Greatest Seasonal Variation in Electricity Use
The range between summer and winter residential energy use can be twice as large as that of the commercial sector, and more than three times as large as the industrial sector. The reason for the great residential variation is that homes are typically cooled in summer with electric-powered air conditioners, while heating typically relies on fuels. [Energy Information Administration]

'State Department' Keystone XL Report Actually Written By TransCanada Contractor
The results of the recent Keystone XL environmental report were strange enough - the mining and burning of the tar sands is unstoppable, so might as well approve it! - but now we learn that the report was written by a private company in the pay of the TransCanada, the pipeline's owner. [Grist]

Solar Panels Rare Amid the Steeples
Religious leaders may be increasing their engagement in environmental and climate issues, but going green in their own buildings is proving difficult because of funding loopholes, old and poorly insulated structures and even aesthetic issues about solar panels installed on top of historic churches. [New York Times]

EPA, Energy Department Can Tackle Climate Change on Several Fronts
Getting anything climate-related through Congress is a pipe dream, but Obama's new appointments to lead the EPA and DOE have the power to cap emissions from power plants, cut down on methane emissions from natural gas drilling, establishing new energy efficiency standards promoting clean energy. [Washington Post]