This Week in Eco News - April 19, 2013

Happy Friday! We're kicking off this week's compilation of Eco News stories with a link to our 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

Get Clean Coal Clean! (A NEW Air Freshener)
Why GRACE recommends: We can't pass up the opportunity to feature Academy Award-wining directors the Coen brothers' take on the absurd notion of "clean coal." In this spoof of a 30-second commercial, a coal industry spokesman boasts of the wonders of clean coal which, as he says, "harnesses the awesome power of the word 'clean'!"

Take Action
: Learn how to be energy efficient and use (truly!) clean energy.


Oyster Farm Caught Up In Pipeline Politics
How did this family oyster farm, which has been fighting for its livelihood off the California coast since November last year, get tied into the Energy Production and Project Delivery Act of 2013 ? The act is calling for the 2000 mile Keystone XL pipeline to be expedited, new gas and oil development in a National Wildlife refuge... and to allow the oyster farm to continue to operate for at least 10 years. With advocates like Alice Waters from Chez Panisse and other sustainable restaurants in the area, the family is concerned that others will blame the pipeline and gas and oil development on them. [New York Times]

Exposed: Monsanto's Chemical War Against Indigenous Hawaiians
Because the Hawaiian islands are geographically isolated, some of the world's largest biotech chemical corporations (Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow AgroSciences, DuPont Pioneer and BASFit) have gone there to conduct chemical experiments! 20 years, 5,000 open-field-test experiments of pesticide-resistant crops, 40,000 to 60,000 acres - with NO disclosure. [Alternet]

Board Decision a Victory for Organics, Preservation of Antibiotics
The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) rejected a petition to extend the expiration date for the use of oxytetracycline to treat fire blight in apple and pear production beyond October 21, 2014. The decision is a victory for the organic standard and advances efforts to preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics. [Food and Water Watch]

As Promised: Obama Wants To Overhaul Global Anti-Hunger Efforts
The White House has announced new plans to combat global hunger - and it involves an overhaul of government programs that donate food to fight hunger abroad. Foreign food aid would be funded through the U.S. Agency for International Development instead of the U.S. Department of Agriculture which currently funds those programs. [NPR]

Pingree Bill Would Increase Access to Local Food
Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) have reintroduced the Local Farms, Food & Jobs Act of 2013 to Congress. The bill seeks to make fresh, healthy food more accessible to consumers and to support the farmers who grow it. [Online Sentinel]

New Report Warns of Inevitable Contamination if GM Alfalfa Released in Ontario
The Canadian Biotechnology Action Network released a new report showing how genetically modified (GM) alfalfa will contaminate non-GM alfalfa and hay crops in Ontario, if GM alfalfa is released in Eastern Canada. The report illuminates how farmers will pay a heavy cost if their crops are contaminated, and states the only way to avoid this is to keep GM alfalfa off the market. [CBAN]

California Officially Adds BPA to its Dangerous Chemicals List
The state of California has placed bisphenol-A (BPA) on its ranking of dangerous chemicals that should not be used in products consumers are exposed to. [Food Production Daily]

Report on US Meat Sounds Alarm on Resistant Bacteria
A new analysis of government data by the Environmental Working Group reveals that more than half of samples of ground turkey, pork chops and ground beef collected from supermarkets for testing by the federal government contained bacteria resistant to antibiotics. [New York Times]

Two New Bills Aim to Save California Farmland From Rampant Sprawl
Two proposed bills could save California's farmland (which is rapidly disappearing as exurban housing development spreads) as well as encourage more density and more growth in cities instead of infringing on cropland. [Grist]

Drug Pipeline for Worst Superbugs ''On Life Support'' – Report
The Infectious Diseases Society of America has released a report raising the alarm about superbugs and the failure of antibiotics. The report also highlights the urgency at which new and innovative solutions are required to combat antibiotic resistant diseases. [Reuters]


China's Massive Water Problem
The end of March 2013 brings with it the probable completion of the first phase of China's gargantuan South-North Water Transfer Project. While an incredible feat of engineering, the project belies the country's supposed advancement on freshwater woes. In reality, water scarcity problems are largely an issue of political decision-making between competing parties on what water allocations they receive. These water concerns are bolstered by a recent Ministry of Water Resources' survey, which concludes that 28,000 rivers have disappeared when compared to national maps. [New York Times]

1600 Years of Ice Melts in 25 Years
A new report published the journal Science says that glacial ice in the Peruvian Andes that took over 1,600 years to form has melted in only 25 years. [Environmental Media Association]

Deluge in Buenos Aires Could Be Sign of Rainfall to Come
As the climate warms, it warms the oceans and increases the amount of water vapor in the air, making it 20 to 30 percent more likely that the additional moist air will create heavier rainfall by the end of the 21st century, according to a NOAA-led study. Torrential rainstorms and deadly flooding recently experienced in Argentina could be a harbinger of what's to come, although the northern hemisphere is expected be especially stormy. [Climatewire]

Los Angeles Plan to Turn Pollution Into Drinking Water
Even staunch LA surfers know diving into the Pacific after it rains is a no-no because polluted runoff makes it noxious. The city now has a plan to start "projects that capture and filter rainwater" and store it in aquifers, addressing the duel problems of pollution and scarce drinking water. The sticking point? How to pay for it. [New York Times]

University of Texas's Irrigation System Saves Millions of Gallons Since Last Year
Drought weary University of Texas at Austin still wants its greenery (or at least some semblance), so the facility managers upgraded to an efficient irrigation system that has surpassed expectations and reduced water use by 66 percent, saving about 10 million gallons. UT is also on an Austin city "water budget" project instead of water restrictions, like the rest of the city. [The Daily Texan]

Obama's proposed budget calls for investing billions in clean-energy technology and eliminating tax preferences for oil and gas companies. The oil and gas industry is predictably complaining while failing to mention that many of their tax breaks have been around since the 1920s.

Catskill Watershed Corporation Quietly Making a Difference
What is a big part of keeping NYC's drinking water so clean? Source water protection in the Upstate watershed forestlands, funded by the city through the Catskill Watershed Corporation. This unique and successful entity has doled out money to local municipalities for everything from area theaters to septic systems, providing incentive to these stewards. [Daily Freeman]

Breweries Back Clean Water Campaign
Two Milwaukee-area craft brewers -- Lakefront Brewery and Central Waters Brewing Co. -- joined with two dozen others on the national "Brewers for Clean Water" campaign, initiated by NRDC, because you can't have good beer without good water. [Journal Sentinel]

India's Resource Nexus: Priorities for Action
The nexus approach extends beyond all jurisdictional boundaries, yet nexus concerns hold real and practical implications on the national level when it comes to resources, politics and peoples' well-being. Here, an expert on the nexus provides five actionable priorities specific to India, the top goal being to work towards global governance that supports the country's development needs. [Live Mint]

How Ontario Is Putting an End To Coal-Burning Power Plants
By 2014, Ontario, Canada will have virtually eliminated coal-fired power plants in the province, thereby significantly reducing water withdrawals and greenhouse gas emissions. Electricity generation will be replaced by efficient, closed cycle-cooled, natural gas-powered plants and renewables - especially wind power - which is incentivized by feed-in tariffs. [Yale 360 ]

Great Lakes Garbage Patch Presents Major Threat To Region's Marine Life, Scientists Say
Most know about all the plastic debris that makes up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, but these gyres of junk are in most every major body of water. In the case of the Great Lakes, the pollution problem could be particularly bad because of the microscopic size that is more easily swallowed by wildlife, and thus more harmful. [Huffington Post]


Solar Panels Could Destroy US Utilities, According to US Utilities
Because utilities make higher profits by selling more electricity, they don't like distributed solar energy - they didn't produce the electricity so they don't get to sell it. So if solar technology continues to improve and costs continue to fall, utilities could soon find themselves with less demand and fewer customers for their service. [Grist]

The Decline of Cheap Energy
Two fascinating graphics from Scientific American illustrate the Energy Return on Investment (EROI) -the amount of energy needed to produce energy that we can use in everyday life - for several different energy sources. In short, liquid fossil fuels are looking less attractive (tar sands require a lot of energy to mine), while renewables are becoming highly competitive with conventional sources of power. [Scientific American]

Four Charts that Show the US Spends Too Little on Energy Research
US energy research and development continues to be underfunded despite political caterwauling about the need for "energy independence." While R&D spending has been growing in recent years, it's dwarfed by spending in other areas and it's set to drop in the years ahead. [Washington Post]

Obama Budget Boosts 'Green Energy,' but No Olive Branch to GOP
Obama's proposed budget calls for investing billions in clean-energy technology and eliminating tax preferences for oil and gas companies. The oil and gas industry is predictably complaining while failing to mention that many of their tax breaks have been around since the 1920s. [Christian Science Monitor]

New Technology Could Mean Tar Sands Production in US
Move over, Canada! The Department of Energy just unveiled a new technology that can be used to refine an estimated 104 billion barrels of US oil sands and heavy oil. [Christian Science Monitor]

Gas Topples Coal as King of Power
The amount of electricity generated by coal has plummeted in New York, and the US, since the 2008 recession thanks to plunging natural gas prices, rising coal prices and pending federal emissions standards. [Albany Times Union]

EPA Will Delay Rule Limiting Carbon Emissions at New Power Plants
The power industry - specifically big coal - complains about the first restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions from US power plants, so the EPA delays issuing those restrictions. You know, the usual chain of events. [New York Times]

Utilities Across the US Embracing Solar Energy
While some electric utilities may be wary of the growing amount of renewable energy feeding into the nation's grid, states like North Carolina, Tennessee and Ohio are joining old solar standbys like California, Hawaii and New Jersey in this year's ranking of utilities that have incorporated the most solar electricity. [Renewable Energy World]

Philadelphia Eagles Green: Field Generates Energy with Solar Panels, Turbines
More than 11,000 solar panels along with 14 wind turbines - said to resemble "bad-ass eggbeaters" - have been installed at Philadelphia's Lincoln Financial Field, their professional football stadium. Together the panels and turbines are expected to provide 30 percent of the power used in the stadium. [Philadelphia Enquirer]

Exxon Offers to Buy Homes Near Arkansas Oil Spill Site
After its pipeline ruptured and spilled 5,000 barrels of heavy crude into an Arkansas neighborhood, Exxon is offering to buy several of the homes most severely affected by the spill. [Dow Jones Newswires]