This Week in Eco News - August 2, 2013

Welcome to our revamped Eco News, now including some of the week's Ecocentric posts and multimedia fun. Clarity is the concern du jour this week; more evidence of fracking's overall impact on clean water came to light, even as the biotech industry's claims of transparency about GMO's safety seem dubious. See a story we should share? Drop us a line: [email protected].

Best of the Web Video - Energy

Energy 101 : Electricity Generation

Let an animated correspondent guide you along electricity's journey from its source to the light bulb in your home, explaining different fuels, thermal power generation, transmission and the grid.

Take Action
: Now that you know where your electricity comes from, learn how to be more energy efficient!


Loss of Bees Can Affect Plants' Ability to Reproduce, Study Finds
Researchers have found that drops in bee populations can affect plants' ability to produce seeds. In depleted numbers, remaining bees take advantage of the opportunity to play the field, or be less faithful to a specific species of plant. This means the bees are less likely to pollinate those species as they are carrying around material from a variety of other flowers, when they once visited their exclusive floral partners. [New York Times]

Seeking Support, Biotech Food Companies Pledge Transparency
As more states move toward GMO labeling, the Council for Biotech Information, a front group for the world's largest biotech firms, has launched, a website that promises greater transparency. New media hasn't done GM proponents any favors in the past, and we're predicting that until Monsanto et al listens to consumers, such attempts to win hearts and minds will keep failing. [New York Times]

Animal Rights Activists Sue Utah Over 'Ag Gag' Law
A landmark lawsuit challenging an ag-gag law has been filed in Utah by animal welfare groups, journalists and a woman who was briefly charged with violating Utah's year-old Agricultural Operation Interference law. The group sued the state in US District Court, alleging that the ag-gag law violates the US Constitution. [Deseret News]

Tracing Germs Through The Aisles
For the past year microbiologist Lance Price has been working with his team to answer questions about the spread of antibiotic-resistant germs from animals raised on industrial farms to human beings. To do this, Professor Price is using gene sequencing to determine how many people in Flagstaff, Arizona are contracting urinary tract infections from grocery store meats. [New York Times]

Appeals Court Strikes Down NYC Big Soda Ban
A New York City appeals court has ruled that size limits on sugary beverages are unconstitutional. Nevertheless, Mayor Bloomberg remains undeterred and has stated that he will appeal the decision and continue to fight the obesity epidemic. [CBS]

Meatless Monday

Israeli Hospitals join ‘Meatless Monday’ movement
Hospital kitchens across Israel are individually adopting the Meatless Monday campaign to promote health, improve the environment and cut costs by doing away with red meat once a week. Among the campaign’s benefits: lowered costs, reduced water consumption for animal feed, use of fossil fuels in cooking and fewer factory farms. Patients, employees and visitors are encouraged to participate.


Agencies at Odds Over Water Pollution Controls
It only took 30 years for the EPA to propose rules for toxic wastewater released from coal-fired power plants. A new report from an environmental coalition shows that while air scrubbers have cleaned the air, pollution still gets transferred to water sludge pools that then seep into waterways. Here's hoping the final regulations take less than 30 years to complete. [Post-Gazette]

Flood, Rebuild, Repeat: Are We Ready for a Superstorm Sandy Every Other Year?
Post-Sandy rebuilding up and down the East Coast has been mixed at best, and is largely deficient in implementing resiliency measures into reconstruction and policy. As recent analyses show, giant storms and devastating floods will occur more frequently in the future, which should cause people to refocus their efforts on smart planning and building...or else! [Mother Jones]

The Growing Evidence of the Threat of Fracking to the Nation's Groundwater
Peter Gleick outlines the mounting scientific evidence that the activities surrounding fracking can contribute to groundwater contamination. The oil and gas industry denies this claim, as they consider "fracking" to be a single step. There's a possible lesson here for enviros: Use the term "fracking" more sparingly and call out the myriad problems inherent in fossil fuel extraction, distribution and energy generation. [Science Blogs]

With Too Much Rain in the South, Too Little Produce on the Shelves
Just a year ago, the southeastern US and its agricultural industry was wilting under horrendous drought conditions. Now, the constant rain has ruined crops because of flooded fields, disease and an inability to perform basic tasks. This wild weather swing is a perfect example of a changing climate and its spawn, "drought and deluge." [New York Times]

EPA Proposes Rule to Modernize Clean Water Act Reporting Process
Will the EPA go all "Bobby Digital" and require e-reporting rather than paper submissions for entities that need wastewater discharge permits, like industrial operations, factory farms and municipalities? If a proposed rule that requires use of the ECHO reporting system goes through, the EPA just might, which would save around $29 million dollars annually. [Timesonline]


Massive Solar Plant a Stepping Stone for Future Projects
The world's largest solar power plant is about to switch on and power about 140,000 homes. However, the Mojave Desert project did hit speed bumps along the way because of conservationist concerns about the loss of desert habitat. California will try to address those concerns by divvying up the desert into renewable energy zones and zones that are off-limits. [KQED]

On Rooftops, a Rival for Utilities
Some electric utilities are getting so scared of the growth in rooftop solar - still less than a quarter of 1 percent of the nation's power generation, mind you - that they're trying to persuade governments to roll back incentives, like net metering, aimed at promoting solar. [New York Times]

As a recent interview with President Obama indicates, arguments against the Keystone XL pipeline project are resonating with him...The US has little to gain and, potentially, a lot to lose.

EPA Submits Final Cooling Water Rule for White House Review
After only 40 years the EPA is in the final stages of releasing a rule that, in theory, will reduce the number of fish and other aquatic life killed by power plant cooling systems. Problem is, the proposed rule is weak and would maintain the ineffective status quo. [E&E News]

Obama Points Out Economic Downsides Of Keystone XL
As a recent interview with President Obama indicates, arguments against the Keystone XL pipeline project are resonating with him. As he says, the project will create very few permanent jobs and the Canadian tar sands oil will simply be passing through the US to be exported to the world market. The US has little to gain and, potentially, a lot to lose. [Grist]

Long Island's Offshore LNG Port Proposal's Critics Fear Fracking Exports on Horizon
A proposed offshore liquefied natural gas import terminal to be built 20 miles off of Long Island is facing public backlash because of the possibility that it could later be converted to export fracked gas from New York and Pennsylvania. [Long Island Press]


Here's The Infographic Your Gas Station Really Doesn't Want You To See: How Many Gigatons of Carbon Dioxide…
We've all heard that our climate is going crazy and that carbon emissions are a huge part of that. But how much carbon can we emit before all hell breaks loose? What will happen if we emit more? What exactly will "all hell" entail? You can find the answers to these questions (and more). [Upworthy]

China's Toxic Sky
Since the beginning of this year, the levels of air pollution in Beijing have been dangerously high, with thick clouds of smog chasing people indoors, disrupting air travel, and affecting the health of millions. At one point the pollution level measured 40 times recommended safety levels. Authorities are taking short-term measures to combat the current crisis, shutting down some factories and limiting government auto usage. However, long-term solutions seem distant, as China's use of coal continues to rise, and the government remains slow to acknowledge and address the problems. [The Atlantic]

Rebuilding the Jersey Shore
Here are some sweeping before and after aerial photos of several locations along the Jersey Shore, taken just after the storm and again in July. Be sure to click on the “change” button to see what these locations look like now. [New Yorker]

Two Energy Futures
This site shows us two possible futures: the first, fossil-fuelled future is the one we’re heading for if we carry on down our current energy path. This is the future that current government policies and business practices will take us to, according to mainstream energy experts. This is a future of runaway climate change and widespread human suffering. In the second, cleaner and fairer future, we show you how it is possible to provide everyone on the planet with a high quality lifestyle, access to education, medical care, efficient transport, comfortable homes and entertainment, all powered by existing clean energy technologies. []