This Week in Eco News - June 21, 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 and share 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

Coal 101 : What's Wrong with Coal?

From mining, to burning, to disposal, coal is wreaking havoc on our health and our planet. Powering our country by burning coal is dangerous. It's time to transition beyond coal to clean, renewable sources of energy.
Take Action:
Learn how we can all play a part in transitioning to a renewable energy future!


US House Rejects Farm Bill
The US House has failed to pass the farm bill, with large cuts to the country’s food stamp program seen as the major reason why the Republican-led house failed to garner enough support from the Democrats. [USA Today]

Farmed Fish Production Overtakes Beef
For the first time in modern history, the global output from fish farming has topped beef production, reaching a record 66 million tons (beef is now at 63 million tons). This historic shift in food production is a solemn reminder of how human beings are pushing natural limits. [Earth Policy]

GMO and Monsanto: Glyphosate Weed Killer Found in Human Urine Across Europe
Laboratory tests commissioned by Friends of the Earth Europe have revealed that 44% of urine samples collected from 18 countries across Europe contain glyphosate, the weed killer otherwise known as Roundup marketed by Monsanto and used on GM Roundup Ready crops. [Global Research]

Report: Bloomberg Plans Food Waste Compost Program That Could Become Mandatory
New York City’s Mayor Bloomberg plans to institute a composting program that may become mandatory for city residents. Reports say that Bloomberg will hire a composting plant to turn 100,000 tons of food scraps per year into biogas, which could be used for electrical generation. [CBS Local]

White House Threatens Veto as House Takes Up Farm Bill
The White House has stated that Obama may veto the House version of the Farm Bill, in part due to “unacceptable deep cuts” in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as SNAP or food stamps. [National Journal]

Farm Subsidies Leading to More Water Use
First authorized in the 1996 farm bill, The Environmental Quality Incentives Program was supposed to help farmers buy more efficient irrigation equipment to save water. However studies now show that the new equipment may be doing just the opposite of what was intended and speeding up the depletion of groundwater supplies, which are crucial to agriculture and as a source of drinking water. [New York Times]

UF Researchers Find Wheat Production Models Disagree Under Climate Change Scenarios
Crop models predicting yields for wheat, one of the world's most important crops, begin to disagree under climate change scenarios, researchers have found for the first time. Scientists hope to be able to target where the models break down, and therefore improve them. [University of Florida]

Iowa Cities Struggle as Farm Runoff Causes Nitrate Levels to Soar in Drinking Water
The Midwest has been experiencing record rainfall this season after last year's devastating drought - but while that sounds like relief, the rain is causing a new problem: The deluge is washing fertilizer off the farms and into rivers that provide drinking water to much of the state. Nitrate levels are soaring, and many are concerned about ecological damage as well as effects on human health. [Washington Post]

Your Certified Organic Beer Just Got More Organic
As of January, every beer ingredient has to be organic to earn a brewer organic certification. As a result, the organic hops industry is booming and more farmers are interested in cultivating this unusual, high-value crop. [Take Part]

Monsanto Eyes Spring Launch in South America for New Soy Seeds
Monsanto plans to debut its second-generation of GM soybean seeds in its key South American market during the next growing season. South America produces just over half the world's soybeans, with Brazil and Argentina among the top three global producers of the oilseed. [Wall Street Journal]


Improving 'Crop Per Drop' Could Boost Global Food Security and Water Sustainability 
By even slightly increasing the productivity of water used in crop production in certain climate zones, i.e., enhancing the "crop per drop," more crops can be grown using less water over the same acreage, which helps both food and water security, a new global study demonstrates. [Science Daily]

The Latest Casualty of Drought May be US Aquifers
Drought over much of the agricultural heartland has led to excessive groundwater pumping and incredibly rapid rates of water depletion from the Ogallala Aquifer in some areas. The problem starts with the fact that no High Plains state other than Kansas even requires water pump meters. (Good place to start.) [E&E News]  

A Fight Over Water, and to Save a Way of Life
Georgia won the right to withdraw the greatest part of the Apalachicola River in its water war with Alabama and Florida, which has helped reduce the river's flow into Florida's Apalachicola Bay, nearly destroying the important fishery's ecosystem. Because the freshwater mix to the Bay is at an all-time low, without government intervention, collapse of the fishery might be imminent. [New York Times]  

High Good, Low Bad: Mead in May 2013
How does the US manage water according to envirojournalist, Emily Green? "The simplest explanation may be that our water system was set up in a way that public money subsidizes waste. When times get tough, we, in very small increments, subsidize efficiency." (Like, for instance, small rebates for water-efficient appliances in dry times.) [Chance of Rain]

No Silver Bullet in Search for More Water
Dry places facing water shortages are in a constant quest for more, yet there are a few easy things communities could do, such as turning off the lights, having xeriscaped lawns, increasing water prices and reusing wastewater, and there, more water. [Yuma Sun]

The Urban Water-Energy-Food Nexus
With up to 70 percent of the world's population living in urban areas, cities must become more resource efficient to make built urban landscapes more productive by deploying such systems-conscious projects as heat and nutrient recovery from wastewater, water-friendly green roofs or rain-catching community gardens. [Water Sensitive Cities]

Water Wars: Who Controls The Flow?
Water law and governance in the US is tricky and is based on two doctrines determined by which side of the Mississippi River you dwell. In the East: "[Under] the riparian doctrine, if you live close to the river or to that water body [or] lake, you have reasonable rights to use that water." In the West, it’s prior appropriation: "It allocates rights based on…if you are first in time, you are first in rights. And historically, it was based on a permitting process where you go and say you asked for the permit first, so you became the first user.” [NPR]

An Arid Arizona City Manages Its Thirst
How is it that the desert metropolis of Phoenix has a lower per capita water use rate than its sister, Los Angeles? It takes a mix of things like mandated water efficiency, water/wastewater reuse for lawns and thermoelectric power plant cooling water (two of the city’s biggest water users), not to mention a sophisticated canal distribution system for agricultural water which is the metro area’s biggest overall water user. [NY Times]

Influx of Syrian Refugees Stretches Jordan’s Water Resources Even More Thinly
The water-strained nation of Jordan is in the midst of a freshwater crisis with half a million Syrian refugees now residing in the country pushing it to the brink. The situation has become as much a national security problem as one of basic needs. [Washington Post]

Brown Algae Threatens Fishing, May be Killing Wildlife in [Florida] Lagoons
Florida’s Indian River Lagoon system is one of the world’s most diverse estuaries generating $3.7 billion for the state. Yet as brown algae seems to be slowly killing the lagoon’s aquatic life – from sea grass to fish to manatees and dolphins – no plan to combat the gooey invasion is in place. [Daytona Beach News-Journal]


Supporting Oil and Gas, but Resisting Encroachment
All this new domestic oil and gas sounds great to a lot of people...until the drills start popping up in their backyards. [New York Times]

Developing World Oil Demand Surpasses Wealthy Nations
We know that the developing world's appetite for coal keeps growing, but now there's word that oil demand in the developing world has eclipsed that of industrialized nations. [Reuters]

White House Adviser Says Obama Will Move Soon On Climate, Domestically and Internationally
Congress is useless when it comes to climate change, so the Obama administration is talking (yet again, talking) about pushing ahead with its own climate change agenda, citing energy efficiency and clean energy initiatives, using the Clean Air Act as a tool for change and phasing out fossil fuel subsidies. [Climate Wire]

Canadian Utility Finds a Use for Detroit's Pile of Oil Sands Byproduct
Perhaps you remember reading about the massive pile of petroleum coke, a byproduct of Canadian oil sands, dumped along the banks of the Detroit River? Well the three-story high pile of high-carbon, high-sulfur waste is returning to Canada to be burned at a power plant in Nova Scotia. [New York Times]

Boston Becomes 8th US City to Require Water, Energy Disclosures
Boston now requires building owners to disclose energy and water usage of buildings with at least 50 units in an effort to highlight opportunities for reducing consumption and making energy efficiency upgrades. [Multihousing News]

What Sickens People in Oil Spills, and How Badly, Is Anybody's Guess
Should the public be evacuated if an oil spill occurs nearby? Who knows? Because of a lack of federal regulations and scientific study, officials are left to make quick, poorly-informed decisions on the short- and long-term health impacts that oil spills might cause. [Inside Climate News]

AT&T to Introduce Solar-Powered Charging Stations
After trucking in polluting, diesel-powered generators to keep its cell phone customers connected in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, AT&T has decided to test out mobile, solar-powered charging stations throughout NYC this summer. If successful, the company plans to install stations in other US cities. [New York Times]

Food Fight: White Castle vs Biofuels
It’s White Castle and Wendy’s vs. ethanol! The fast food chains, along with other beef interests and congressmen, are demanding the repeal of the federal Renewable Fuel Standard because they say that the push for ethanol is increasing the price of corn, a crop that has long fed the cattle that the food industry turns into burgers. [Smart Planet]

Fracking Fuels Water Fights in Nation's Dry Spots
Fracking for oil and gas is gaining in popularity west of the Mississippi, and that means increasing competition which drives up the price of water, burdening already depleted aquifers and rivers in certain drought-stricken stretches. [Associated Press]

GOP Bill Would Cut Renewable Energy Spending In Half
The House is looking to increase military spending, but in the age of sequestration those increases must be offset, so of course the natural target is…funding for renewable energy! [E2 Wire]