This Week in Eco News - May 10, 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 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

Greening the Grid
Smart grids are in our future, and this short film from ClimateDesk explains how re-engineering our electric grid can make it easier to develop more renewable energy and create a more efficient and reliable electric system. (And the Back to the Future footage is a nice bonus.)

Take Action
: Learn More: Renewable energy is surging in popularity, but here are two obstacles that we need to overcome to get even more clean power on the grid.


FDA Ignores Toxic Arsenic In Animal Feed
The Center for Food Safety (CFS) and the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) along with seven other advocacy groups have filed a lawsuit to push FDA to respond to the groups' three year-old petition which calls for immediate withdrawal of FDA's approval of arsenic-containing compounds as feed additives for food animals. [Center for Food Safety]

Pathogen Causing EMS Disease in Shrimp now Identified
Month of investigations have finally determined that a bacterial agent has been the cause of early mortality symptom (EMS) in shrimp in Southeast Asia, an epidemic that has caused the industry more than $1 billion in annual losses. [The Fish Site]

Where is the Scrutiny of Crop Insurance Fraud?
Supporters of SNAP (food stamps) are calling out legislators for attacking the program, and Minnesota Congressman Colin Peterson stuck a nerve this month when he said "There is five times as much fraud" in crop insurance than in food stamps. [EWG]

US Study Links Pesticides to Honey Bee Deaths, but EPA Won't Call for Ban
Despite suggesting a strong link between the use of certain pesticides and the epidemic of honeybee deaths worldwide, a major USDA study does NOT suggest limiting use of these pesticides nor recommend any immediate action to temporarily ban them. Instead, it only urges additional research. Meanwhile, across the pond, the EU has taken action to ban these pesticides given the massive amounts of evidence that already exists. [Common Dreams]

Idaho Company Seeks to Introduce Genetically-Engineered Potato
J.R. Simplot, one of the country's leading French fry suppliers, is asking the USDA to approve their genetically-modified potatoes designed to be less prone to dark spots. [KPLU]

Worth Protecting: EWG Farm Bill Platform
The Environmental Working Group has launched a new Farm Bill and sustainability effort called "Worth Protecting." [EWG]

First Ag-Gag, Now the Name Game
In a new and revealing column, pork industry veteran Linden Olson advises fellow producers to simply change the way they talk about abusive practices, rather than changing the practices themselves. For example, he recommends changing the name of "gestation crates" to "individual maternity pens." [Huffington Post]

USDA Expands SNAP Access at Farmers Markets
The USDA has announced a $4 million initiative to increase the use of federal food credits at farmers markets. The plan will expand wireless access to qualified retailers that do not already accept SNAP payments. [Washington Post]

Seven Dodgy Food Practices Banned in Europe But Just Fine Here
Last week the EU banned neonicotinoid pesticides based on evidence that they're responsible for the massive global decline in honeybee populations. Meanwhile the US, armed with the same evidence, continues to allow their widespread use. This isn't the only example of Europe banned food-related substances and practices thought to be dangerous and damaging that continue to be allowed in the US... [Mother Jones]

Regulate The Use of Antibiotics on Farm Animals
Chipotle CEO Steve Ells and sustainable pork producer/ NRDC Growing Green Awards winner Russ Kremer have come together in asking the FDA to regulate the use of antibiotics on farm animals. [Denver Post]


Thirsty India Looks to Murray-Darling Model
Since India's freshwater demand is predicted to more than double its supply by 2030, the country is looking towards solutions from Australia's water management (as the driest continent) of the Murray-Darling River, which includes higher water pricing and the development of solid modeling tools. [Sydney Morning Herald]

Groundwater Pollution Grows Alarming
Due to little to no oversight of waste disposal, particularly for industry, China's "groundwater quality in nearly 60 percent of monitoring sites in 198 cities has been measured as poor, according to a report released by the Ministry of Land and Resources Saturday." [Global Times]

Late 20th Century Hottest in Over 1000 Years
The first climate reconstruction by a group of international climatologists found that the "[a]verage temperatures around the world in the last thirty years of the 20th century were higher than any other time in nearly 1400 years." [Australian Broadcasting Corporation]

In China, Breathing Becomes a Childhood Risk
Air pollution in much of urban China - most especially Beijing - is so bad and so extreme that many children are dealing with negative health effects and are forced to stay inside. The pollution is also pushing people in the middle class and the elite to move out. [New York Times]

Water Law: With Locals at the Helm, Kansas Charts New Course for Groundwater Management
To preserve their part of the vital Ogallala Aquifer in western Kansas, farmers and water managers have decided to voluntarily reduce water use 20 percent from historical use through a new law called LEMA. The law gives local farmers flexibility in how to lower water use by employing new technologies or farming methods. [Circle of Blue]

Global Warming: 'Black Carbon' Flow
The amount of black carbon - or the "incomplete combustion of fossil fuels" from forest fires, etc. - that remains sequestered in soil is less than previously thought because much of it will dissolve into rivers and then to oceans. The greater than expected soil carbon loss to the water system might mean that soil storage is less "beneficial in terms of mitigating climate change." [Science Daily]

Link Between Smallmouth Bass Mortality and the Need to Reduce Water Pollution
A perfect storm of pollution, parasites, warming water and endocrine disruptors may be combining to threaten one of the region's most popular fresh water game fish, the smallmouth bass. [Chesapeake Bay Foundation]

David Crane, CEO of NRG Energy recently said that distributed energy - solar panels, wind turbines, fuel cells - will soon allow people "to walk away from the grid and produce electricity in their home."

Pilot Study Finds Bradford County, PA Residents Concerned About Fracking Health Effects
A University of Pennsylvania pilot study found that out of 72 participating residents living near natural gas extraction operations in heavily fracked Bradford County, PA, 22 percent believe that fracking operations have contributed to health issues, like sinus, sleeping and gastrointestinal problems. [Penn Medicine]

North Dakota Oil is More Plentiful than Previously Thought
The USGS more than doubled its estimate of recoverable oil in the Bakken Shale - located primarily in North Dakota and slightly into Montana - to 7.4 million barrels. This would make the oil play the largest ever in the US and one previously unrecoverable before the widespread deployment of high volume hydraulic fracturing. [Star Tribune]

Spread of Hydrofracking Could Strain Water Resources in West, Study Finds
An eco-minded investment group, Ceres, released a report that warns of potential water shortages in the arid western US as fracking expands and water withdrawal demands increase. [New York Times]


In Two-Way Charging, Electric Cars Begin to Earn Money From the Grid
Electric cars and the electric grid may soon strike up an equal partnership. The University of Delaware created a system that would allow plug-in cars to both draw electricity from the grid and to supply electricity which proponents say could help stabilize the grid once more electric cars are on the road. [New York Times]

US Designed No-Emission Power Plant Will Debut Off China's Coast
It might sound like science fiction, but Lockheed Martin is about to build a power plant off the coast of China that harnesses energy from steep differentials in ocean temperatures, called "ocean thermal energy conversion." [E&E News]

Exxon's Pegasus Oil Pipe Spills Crude Into Missouri Yard
Ho-hum, another week another spill of tar sands crude into a residential neighborhood. The same pipeline that ruptured in Arkansas last month leaked crude into a Missouri homeowner's backyard...even though the pipeline has remained closed for repairs since the Arkansas spill. [Reuters]

It's Easy to Keep US Carbon Emissions Flat. Sadly, That's Not Enough.
If the US simply keeps its energy policies status quo, then carbon emissions will remain flat according to the US Energy Information Administration. But that's not enough to meet the nation's goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions 83 percent by 2050. [Washington Post]

Spurt in Hawaiian Solar Use Leads Nation, but Conflict Threatens Program
Hawaii relies on oil to generate its electricity, and so rising costs have made solar so attractive that the Aloha State now leads the nation in the portion of its electricity that comes from solar. Yet the electric utility and some legislators are looking to put the brakes on this growth, claiming abuse of financial incentives and rising costs. [E&E News]

Obama Says US Natural Gas Exports Could Help Central America
Remember when building and expanding liquefied natural gas import terminals in the US was all the rage? Oh how fracking and a domestic natural gas glut has changed things. Now President Obama wants to help relieve Central America's growing energy demands by exporting liquefied natural gas, angering both environmentalists and American businesses. [Reuters]

Will Utilities Embrace Distributed Energy?
David Crane, CEO of NRG Energy recently said that distributed energy - solar panels, wind turbines, fuel cells - will soon allow people "to walk away from the grid and produce electricity in their home." Utilities are getting anxious about such a transition because fewer customers mean less revenue to draw on for maintaining and upgrading the nation's aging electric grid. [MIT Technology Review]

State Renewable Energy Policy Developments - April Recap
While there are efforts afoot to scale back state renewable energy standards, the little-heard good news is that there are nearly an equal number of state bills in the works that would push for even greater renewable energy development. As usual, states are way ahead of the federal government when it comes to clean energy. [NRDC Switchboard]

Plans to Harness Chinese River's Power Threaten a Region
China has set its sights on the 1,700 mile Nu River, stretching from the Himalayas down to Myanmar, for a series of hydroelectric dams, an audacious plan that would relocate tens of thousands of people, threaten millions of downstream farmers and fishermen and forever damage one of the world's most ecologically diverse and fragile places. [New York Times]

Obama Meets With Utility CEOs on Recovery From Storm Disruptions
Utility executives and their lobbyists met with President Obama to discuss "lessons learned" from last year's disastrous hurricane season just a few weeks before what's expected to be another active season. [Bloomberg]