This Week in Eco News - June 6, 2014

It was hard to miss the big Eco News this week as the EPA rolled out new carbon limits for power plants. We're still waiting for some summery faves to appear at local farmers' markets, but in the meantime, try snacking on radishes, sea salt and butter as you muse on the rest of this week's news, videos and multimedia. If you see a story we should share, drop us a line at [email protected]!

Best of the Web Video - Energy

A Star on Earth?
At the Energy Department's Princeton Plasma Physics Lab, scientists are trying to accomplish what was once considered the realm of science fiction: create a star on Earth. Fusion is the energy source of the sun and all of the stars. This experiment is enabling cutting-edge research to develop fusion as a future energy source.

Take Action: While fusion scientists are at work, learn how you can get energy efficient, go renewable and vote for clean energy. 


Study Examines Efficacy of Taxes on Sugary Drinks
Calorie-count, not drink size, fits the bill for taxing sugary beverages. A new study funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation reports that consumers would be more likely to avoid sugary drinks with a low tax on sugar content than they would with a higher tax on beverage size. Health officials recognize sugary drinks as a major contributor to US obesity rates. [New York Times]

US Fast Food Chain Urges Change to Grass-fed Beef
Where’s the beef? For Chipotle, the answer is Australia, not the US. The restaurant chain is so big that US grass-fed beef producers cannot keep up, so the company is supplementing their supply with foreign beef to avoid serving conventional meat. Founder Steve Ells hopes Chipotle’s demand for grass-fed will influence US farmers to switch from feed-lot methods. [Global Meat News]

EU Moves Away From ‘Best By’ Labels; Will the US Follow?
An EU proposal has been introduced to exempt some long shelf life items, like pasta, from “best before” labeling. Date labels are often misconstrued as spoilage dates, leading consumers to toss perfectly edible foods. We fall victim to the same misconception in the US, where labeling laws are messy and unstandardized, but reform could be on the way. [Civil Eats]

FDA to Update Mercury in Seafood Guidance for Pregnant Women
After failing to respond to a petition for mercury-in-seafood labeling in laws, the FDA is responding to a subsequent lawsuit by updating its mercury-in-seafood guidance for pregnant women and young children. The FDA does not intend to require labeling, but the guidance should help consumers avoid mercury, especially if it is made available in stores. [Food Safety News]

It’s Time to Protect School-Cafeteria Workers From Their Own Food Fight
While the School Nutrition Association (SNA) has advocated healthier school food for decades, its latest fight allowing waivers for not implementing school-meals program and pushing to roll back some regulations, tarnishes its image. Health advocates and even former SNA leaders have spoken against the SNA’s position on the school lunch rules. [National Journal]

Meatless Monday

City of San Jose Proclaims Mondays to be “Meatless Monday”
The nation's tenth-largest city of San Jose has signed on to the “Meatless Monday” campaign "to protect animals and support the health and environmental benefits of taking a holiday from meat at least one day a week." [Humane Society]


Phony Objections to Clean Water Protection Rule: Myths and Facts about Agriculture and the Proposal
Some industry groups, especially in agriculture, are demonizing the proposed Clean Water Act clarification (which the Supreme Court and industry requested). Among other misleading (really, false) statements by industry and allied politicians are: 1 ) “nearly every drop of water that falls” is federally regulated; 2 ) the Feds are changing the law on waters covered; 3 ) there aren’t enough ag exemptions (there are 56). [NRDC Switchboard]

Recycling Textiles Quenches Droughts, Prevents Wildfire...and Makes for Better Guacamole
Textile production is a water suck because fiber crops like cotton are really thirsty and are heavily polluting since pesticides for cultivation and fiber dyes in manufacturing get washed into our waters. To lower your water footprint, consider buying one less new pair of 500-gallon jeans (yep) and recycle fabric whenever possible. [Huffington Post]

Smoke in the Water
Residents along North Carolina’s Dan River are still dealing with the fallout of the multi-ton Duke Energy coal ash leak in March. Duke, the country’s largest electric utility, maintains that peoples’ drinking water is safe, as do (super-)acquiescent state regulators and politicians who are attempting to gut oversight even as 13 other coal ash sites statewide slowly pollute surrounding waters. [New York Times]

Seven States Running Out of Water
With huge swaths of America’s landmass currently under drought, which states are suffering the most? In terms of percentage of the state that fall under the classifications of severe, extreme or exceptional drought, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Kansas, Arizona, Oklahoma and Texas rank from devastated to near-devastated. [USA Today]


In Debate Over Coal, Lessons From ’90s Tobacco Fight
Proposed EPA regulations seek to curb carbon dioxide emissions over the next several decades. Coal will be a prime target. A so called "War on Coal" could resemble the "War on Tobacco" of the 1990s. [New York Times]

Report Calls for Huge Investment in Energy Development
The International Energy Agency is forecasting the need for trillions of dollars in energy development, maintenance and efficiency. The upcoming climate talks in Paris in 2015 could change the game by redirecting investment in renewable energy and efficiency. [New York Times]

Anti-Keystone Movement Energized by EPA Ruling
The EPA's new plans for carbon emissions gave anti-Keystone XL activists a reason to believe that the project will ultimately be rejected by the Obama administration. Climate groups like think that "the more [Obama] commits to making climate a part of his legacy, the easier it is and the more natural it would be to make a decision like rejecting Keystone." [MSNBC]


EPA Carbon Limits: An 'Obamacare' for Climate Change
"The EPA will unveil new regulations to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by 30 percent by 2030. The EPA power plant rules are the most aggressive of President Obama's Climate Action Plan and have already provoked heated debate over a complex issue." [Christian Science Monitor]

Behind the Mask – A Reality Check on China’s Plans for a Carbon Cap
A day after the US announced a proposed climate plan, an adviser to the Chinese government announced plans for an absolute cap on carbon emissions from 2016. The carbon target may be a part of the country's next five year plan. Andy Revkin cautiously notes that this announcement does not officially reflect the government's position. [Dot Earth Blog NYT]

Power Plants Target of New EPA Carbon Rule
With one of the largest coal reserves, Montana, like other states, has both proponents and detractors of the proposed EPA carbon regulations on power plants. Climate change’s often negative effects on water resources (like fast-melting snowpacks, less frequent rainfall and dry waterways by summer’s end) make lowering power plant's CO2 emissions necessary. [Great Falls Tribune]


Atlanta Secondhand-Goods Store Parodies Pharrell Williams’s “Happy”
Finally got "Happy" out of your head? "Used Clothes Are Not Trashy", a video that parodies Pharrell Williams’s infectious earworm, will keep you clapping along to the benefits of textile recycling for days. This makes us very Happy! #NotTrashy [ecouterre]

Colorado Four Mile-long Landslide at Fracking Operation
Fracking didn’t cause this landslide, but as you can see in the videos, the landslide took out a heavily fracked area full of fracking infrastructure in a mountainous area in western Colorado. Here’s hoping that none of the oil and gas manages to seep into any waterways or groundwater. [Dutch Sinse]

Fiesta del Agua y del Jamon
Now this is how you celebrate water! Known as the Water and Ham Festival, on June 23rd, people in Lanjarón, Grenada have a huge water fight, then celebrate with lots of beer, ham and fireworks. In the video, it sort of looks like Mardis Gras or Carnival, only with hoses and ham. [YouTube]

Graph of the Day: New US Solar Installation Every 2.4 Minutes
The US solar market is surging. Installations for 2014 are expected to jump to 6.6 GW in 2014, a rise of more than one third from 2013 and double the rate of 2012, and that rate is expected to nearly double again by 2016. These graphs break down the numbers for you. [reneweconomy]

Edible Institute: Keynote by Mark Bittman
On May 10th, the nation's food movers and shakers held a two-day celebration and discussion of where the American food movement is, and where it's going. Part of the meeting of Edible magazine publishers from around the nation, the annual panel featured talks and panels by farmers, chefs, drink makers, journalists, investors and food and drink enthusiasts. Topics included: sustainable food businesses in cities; scaling up good food in foodservice; foodtech and how can it change the food system; regional seafood; independent food journalism; fracking and drinking. [YouTube]

Food Eco News contributed by Audrey Jenkins; Water Eco News by Kai Olson-Sawyer; Energy Eco News by James Rose and Multimedia content by Robin Madel.