Robber fly - Nature photographer Thomas Shahan specializes in amazing portraits of tiny insects. It isn't easy. Shahan says that this Robber Fly (Holcocephala fusca), for instance, is "skittish" and doesn't like its picture taken.

Eye-popping bug photos

Nature by Numbers (Video)

"A Summary" – Apr 2, 2011 (Kryon channeled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Religion, Shift of Human Consciousness, 2012, Intelligent/Benevolent Design, EU, South America, 5 Currencies, Water Cycle (Heat up, Mini Ice Ace, Oceans, Fish, Earthquakes ..), Middle East, Internet, Israel, Dictators, Palestine, US, Japan (Quake/Tsunami Disasters , People, Society ...), Nuclear Power Revealed, Hydro Power, Geothermal Power, Moon, Financial Institutes (Recession, Realign integrity values ..) , China, North Korea, Global Unity,..... etc.) -
"The Quantum Factor" – Apr 10, 2011 (Kryon channeled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Galaxies, Universe, Intelligent design, Benevolent design, Aliens, Nikola Tesla (Quantum energy), Inter-Planetary Travel, DNA, Genes, Stem Cells, Cells, Rejuvenation, Shift of Human Consciousness, Spontaneous Remission, Religion, Dictators, Africa, China, Nuclear Power, Sustainable Development, Animals, Global Unity.. etc.) - (Text Version)

“ … Here is another one. A change in what Human nature will allow for government. "Careful, Kryon, don't talk about politics. You'll get in trouble." I won't get in trouble. I'm going to tell you to watch for leadership that cares about you. "You mean politics is going to change?" It already has. It's beginning. Watch for it. You're going to see a total phase-out of old energy dictatorships eventually. The potential is that you're going to see that before 2013.

They're going to fall over, you know, because the energy of the population will not sustain an old energy leader ..."

(Live Kryon Channelings was given 7 times within the United Nations building.)

"Update on Current Events" – Jul 23, 2011 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll) - (Subjects: The Humanization of God, Gaia, Shift of Human Consciousness, 2012, Benevolent Design, Financial Institutes (Recession, System to Change ...), Water Cycle (Heat up, Mini Ice Ace, Oceans, Fish, Earthquakes ..), Nuclear Power Revealed, Geothermal Power, Hydro Power, Drinking Water from Seawater, No need for Oil as Much, Middle East in Peace, Persia/Iran Uprising, Muhammad, Israel, DNA, Two Dictators to fall soon, Africa, China, (Old) Souls, Species to go, Whales to Humans, Global Unity,..... etc.)

"Recalibration of Free Choice"– Mar 3, 2012 (Kryon Channelling by Lee Caroll) - (Subjects: (Old) Souls, Midpoint on 21-12-2012, Shift of Human Consciousness, Black & White vs. Color, 1 - Spirituality (Religions) shifting, Loose a Pope “soon”, 2 - Humans will change react to drama, 3 - Civilizations/Population on Earth, 4 - Alternate energy sources (Geothermal, Tidal (Paddle wheels), Wind), 5 – Financials Institutes/concepts will change (Integrity – Ethical) , 6 - News/Media/TV to change, 7 – Big Pharmaceutical company will collapse “soon”, (Keep people sick), (Integrity – Ethical) 8 – Wars will be over on Earth, Global Unity, … etc.) - (Text version)

“… 4 - Energy (again)

The natural resources of the planet are finite and will not support the continuation of what you've been doing. We've been saying this for a decade. Watch for increased science and increased funding for alternate ways of creating electricity (finally). Watch for the very companies who have the most to lose being the ones who fund it. It is the beginning of a full realization that a change of thinking is at hand. You can take things from Gaia that are energy, instead of physical resources. We speak yet again about geothermal, about tidal, about wind. Again, we plead with you not to over-engineer this. For one of the things that Human Beings do in a technological age is to over-engineer simple things. Look at nuclear - the most over-engineered and expensive steam engine in existence!

Your current ideas of capturing energy from tidal and wave motion don't have to be technical marvels. Think paddle wheel on a pier with waves, which will create energy in both directions [waves coming and going] tied to a generator that can power dozens of neighborhoods, not full cities. Think simple and decentralize the idea of utilities. The same goes for wind and geothermal. Think of utilities for groups of homes in a cluster. You won't have a grid failure if there is no grid. This is the way of the future, and you'll be more inclined to have it sooner than later if you do this, and it won't cost as much….”

"Fast-Tracking" - Feb 8, 2014 (Kryon Channelling by Lee Carroll) - (Reference to Fukushima / H-bomb nuclear pollution and a warning about nuclear > 20 Min)
Google: Earthday 2013

Saturday, July 19, 2014

EPA blocks huge Alaska mine project with environmental restrictions

• Pebble mine decision protects state's largest salmon fishery
• Copper and gold mine stood to affect Manhattan-sized area, Peter Moskowitz in New York, Friday 18 July 2014

In this 2007 photo, workers with the Pebble Mine project test drill in the Bristol
Bay region of Alaska. The mine is now unlikely to proceed. Photograph: Al Grillo/AP

The Environmental Protection Agency has announced a set of restrictions that will in effect prevent the development of a controversial copper and gold mine in Alaska which many said would have been disastrous for the state’s largest salmon fishery.

Pebble Mine, located in south-west Alaska near Bristol Bay, would have been one of the largest opencast mines in the world — more than a mile deep, the depth of the Grand Canyon. And the total impact of the mine – from the project itself to the huge waste ponds and piles it would have required – could take up an area the size of Manhattan, according to the EPA. That, the EPA’s regional administrator, Dennis McLerran, said on Friday, was unacceptable for the environment, for those who rely on the salmon in Bristol Bay for work, and for the Native community who have argued that the area is integral to their way of life.

“Bristol Bay is an extraordinary ecosystem that supports an ancient fishing culture and economic powerhouse,” McLerran said in a statement. “The science is clear that mining the Pebble deposit would cause irreversible damage to one of the world’s last intact salmon ecosystems.”

Pebble Partnership, the company set up by the two mining corporations that sought to develop the mine, along with the state of Alaska, sued the EPA in May claiming the agency was overstepping its legal authority by weighing in on the development.

The EPA’s decision on Friday could theoretically be affected by that lawsuit, but many consider the suit a long shot.

Supporters of the mine, who say the EPA is killing the potential for an economic boom in the state, saw Friday’s announcement as an all-out attack on states' rights.

“The EPA is setting a precedent that strips Alaska and all Alaskans of the ability to make decisions on how to develop a healthy economy on their lands,” Senator Lisa Murkowski said. “This [decision] is a blueprint that will be used across the country to stop economic development.”

The agency’s decision does not rule out future development of the mine, but it sets environmental restrictions so burdensome that moving forward with the project would probably be financially untenable. While more action from Pebble Partnership and other supporters of the project is likely, those against the mine viewed the EPA’s announcement as a decisive win.

“This has been looming over us for a decade,” said Alannah Hurley, programme manager for the United Tribes of Bristol Bay, which represents different tribal groups in the area. “For the tribal community, everything that makes us who we are was at stake. For the EPA to recognise that Bristol Bay is worth protecting is huge.”

Germany is most energy efficient major economy, study finds

Ranking places Mexico last and voices concern about the pace of efforts by the United States and Australia – AFP, Friday 18 July 2014

The Reichstag building in Berlin has been praised for its energy
efficiency. Photograph: Wolfgang Kumm/EPA

Germany is the world's most energy efficient country with strong codes on buildings while China is quickly stepping up its own efforts, an environmental group said Thursday.

The study of 16 major economies by the Washington-based American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy ranked Mexico last and voiced concern about the pace of efforts by the United States and Australia.

The council gave Germany the top score as it credited Europe's largest economy for its mandatory codes on residential and commercial buildings as it works to meet a goal of reducing energy consumption by 20% by 2020 from 2008 levels.

"We are pleased to win a second title in a week's time," Philipp Ackermann, the deputy chief of mission at the German embassy in Washington, told a conference call, alluding to his country's World Cup victory.

Echoing the views of the report's authors, Ackermann pointed out that Germany has achieved economic growth while improving efficiency and reducing harmful environmental effects of the energy trade.

"We all agree , I think - the cheapest energy is the energy you don't have to produce in the first place," Ackermann said.

"Our long-term goal is to fully decouple economic growth from energy use," he said.

Energy efficiency scorecard. Photograph: ACEEE

The study ranked Italy second, pointing to its efficiency in transportation, and ranked the European Union as a whole third. China and France were tied for fourth place, followed by Britain and Japan.

The report found that China used less energy per square foot than any other country, even if enforcement of building codes is not always rigorous.

"There's a lot more China can do, they do waste a lot of energy as well, but they really are making quite a bit of progress," said Steven Nadel, the council's executive director.

The study found a "clear backward trend" in Australia, where prime minister, Tony Abbott, is sceptical about the science on climate change. On Thursday, Australia abolished a controversial carbon tax.

Australia was ranked 10th, with the council praising the country's efforts on building construction and manufacturing but placing it last on energy efficiency in transportation.

The study ranked the United States in 13th place, saying that the world's largest economy has made progress but on a national level still wastes a "tremendous" amount of energy.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Over 60% of breads sold in the UK contain pesticide residues, tests show

Traces found in two in every three loaves as experts call for more research into impact on health, Damian Carrington, Thursday 17 July 2014

A tractor spraying a young wheat crop. Hundreds of loaves of bread tested
contained residues of more than one pesticide. Photograph: Nigel Cattlin/Alamy

Two in every three loaves of bread sold in the UK contain pesticide residues, according to a new analysis of government data by environmental campaigners. Tests on hundreds of loaves also showed that 25% contained residues of more than one pesticide.

The official tests are carried out by the government’s expert committee on pesticide residues in food (Prif) and the levels found were below “maximum residue level” (MRL) limits. The Prif experts concluded: “We do not expect these residues to have an effect on health.”

But Nick Mole, at Pesticide Action Network UK (Pan UK) and an author of the new report, said MRLs only indicate whether the pesticides had been applied to crops in the amounts permitted. “They are nothing to do with people’s health whatsoever,” he said. “There is the possibility of harm from the repeated ingestion of low doses of pesticides and no one has done research on the impact of the cocktails of pesticides we are all exposed to. We are all being experimented on without our consent.”

A major study on the differences between organic and conventional food reported by the Guardian on Friday concluded that pesticides were found four times more often on conventional fruit, vegetables and cereals. “If you want to avoid pesticides, the only sure way to minimise them is eating organic,” said Mole.

Pan UK analysed the pesticides residues reported by Prif in both supermarket own-brand loaves and top brand-name loaves. It found that 63% of the loaves analysed in 2013 contained traces of at least one pesticide and that contamination has run at these levels for at least a decade. The most frequently detected pesticide was glyphosate, a common weedkiller. The next most common were chlormequat, a plant growth regulator, and malathion, an organophosphate insecticide.

The chemicals were found in the bread significantly more frequently than in other foods, where on average 40% of products contain residues.

In March, the UK government produced a national action plan for pesticides, as required by EU law. It stipulates: “Member states should monitor the use of plant protection products containing substances of particular concern and establish timetables and targets for the reduction of their use”. However, the UK plancontains no timetable or targets, despite the area of crops being treated with pesticide being on the rise. David Bench, director of chemicals regulation at the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which hosts Prif, told MPs in March: “We are not in favour of quantitative pesticide reduction targets as they are generally meaningless.” MPs criticised the HSE for “cherry-picking”.

Mole accused the pesticide companies, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the National Farmers’ Union of having a “cosy” relationship. “The UK’s pesticide action plan was particularly weak,” he said. “Pesticides need to be used last, if at all, at the moment they are the first choice.”

Defra was contacted for comment but did not respond by the time of publication.

Related Articles:

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Jakarta Temperature Drops in Line With Freezing Australia

Jakarta Globe, SP/Ari Supriyanti Rikin & Arientha Primanita, Jul 15, 2014

Bemos make their way past an overpass on Monday, July 14, as cold southerly
winds sent temperatures down into the low 20s. (Antara Photo/Vitalis Yogi Trisna)

Jakarta. Extraordinarily cold weather across parts of Indonesia and Australia over the last week could be repeated if southerly winds from Antarctica were to return, the Indonesian meteorology agency said on Tuesday.

The temperature dropped four to eight degrees Celsius from the July average over the weekend, according to the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG).

BMKG head Edvid Aldrian said that the temperature dropped as much as eight degrees in Serang, Banten province.

“As late as Monday morning the temperature in Curug was at 23 degrees Celsius while Jakarta recorded 25 degrees on Monday evening,” he said on Monday.

Edvin said that Indonesia’s colder-than-usual temperatures were commensurate with the record-breaking lows felt across parts of Australia, with chilly southerly winds sending temperatures in Brisbane below freezing. July 11 was the coldest day in the Queensland state capital for 103 years.

Indonesia has seen an unusually late start to its dry season, with meteorology chiefs agreeing that the rainy season had lagged well into July.

“There is a small chance that such cold weather will happen again. It was because on Sunday there was low pressure in the Sunda Strait which caused more clouds at the western part of Indonesia, especially West Java and South Sumatra,” he told the Jakarta Globe on Tuesday.

Edvin said that Greater Jakarta was only now beginning to see the start of the dry season, but added that isolated showers were still a possibility. He said that the rainy season will start again around September.

Friday, July 11, 2014

World Council of Churches pulls fossil fuel investments

Campaigners hail 'major victory' as council representing half a billion Christians says it will stop investing in fossil fuels, Adam Vaughan, Friday 11 July 2014

The World Council of Churches has revised its ethical investment criteria
to exclude fossil fuel companies Photograph: Hilke Maunder/Alamy

An umbrella group of churches, which represents over half a billion Christians worldwide, has decided to pull its investments out of fossil fuel companies.

The move by the World Council of Churches, which has 345 member churches including the Church of England but not the Catholic church, was welcomed as a "major victory" by climate campaigners who have been calling on companies and institutions such as pension funds, universities and local governments to divest from coal, oil and gas.

In an article for the Guardian in April, Archbishop Desmond Tutu said that "people of conscience need to break their ties with corporations financing the injustice of climate change" and events sponsored by fossil fuel companies could even be boycotted.

Bill McKibben, the founder of climate campaign group, said in a statement: "The World Council of Churches reminds us that morality demands thinking as much about the future as about ourselves – and that there's no threat to the future greater than the unchecked burning of fossil fuels. This is a remarkable moment for the 590 million Christians in its member denominations: a huge percentage of humanity says today 'this far and no further'."

The report of the council's financy policy committee, published on Thursday on the final day of the council's central committee meeting in Geneva, says that: "The committee discussed the ethical investment criteria, and considered that the list of sectors in which the WCC does not invest should be extended to include fossil fuels."'s European divestment coordinator, Tim Ratcliffe, said: “The World Council of Churches may be the most important commitment we’ve received yet."

It is not clear yet whether Thursday's decision will apply only to the council itself, which has a comparatively small investment fund, or its members as well, which have much larger investments.

The Church of England said it could not yet comment on what the decision meant for its own investments. The CoE has not moved yet to divest from fossil fuel companies but has set up a subgroup to take advice on climate change and investment.

In May, the UN's climate chief, Christiana Figueres, gave a speech to faith leaders at St Paul's cathedral in London, calling on them to show leadership on climate change. She also said religious groups should drop their investments in fossil fuels, and encourage their members to do the same.

Christiana Figueres speech at St Paul's cathedral

Studies have suggested the fossil fuel divestment campaign, which began in the US, has been faster than than any previous divestment movement such as tobacco and apartheid.

Related Article:

Int'l eco forum opens in SW China, 2014-07-11,  Editor: Yang Yi
Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao (C) poses for a group picture with guests
 attending the opening ceremony of Eco Forum Global Annual Conference Guiyang
 2014 in Guiyang, capital of southwest China's Guizhou Province, July 11, 2014.
Li addressed the opening ceremony Friday. (Xinhua/Ou Dongqu)

GUIYANG, July 11 (Xinhua) -- An international forum on environmental protection opened on Friday in Guiyang, capital of southwest China's Guizhou Province.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said in a congratulatory letter to the Eco Forum Global Annual Conference Guiyang 2014 that China, together with other countries and international groups, will strengthen cooperation in environmental protection and work to fulfill international environmental protection conventions.

The theme of the forum this year, "joining hands, leveraging reforms to bring forth a new era of eco-civilization -- government, enterprise and civil society: institutional framework and paths toward green development," reveals the role of China's reform in the green drive as well as the common responsibility borne by the government, enterprises and the public on the matter, Li said in the letter.

Around 1,000 guests, including representatives from 61 countries and regions, have gathered to share opinions and experiences on climate change, clean technology, green production, and legislation on environmental protection before the conference closes on Saturday.

Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao attended the opening ceremony.

The Eco Forum is an independent international organization committed to improving the world by engaging business, political, academic and other leaders in the shaping of global, regional and industry agendas.

The opening ceremony of the Eco Forum Global Annual Conference Guiyang
 2014 is held in Guiyang International Eco-conference Center in Guiyang, capital of
 southwest China's Guizhou Province, July 11, 2014. The theme of the forum this year
 is "joining hands, leveraging reforms to bring forth a new era of eco-civilization --
government, enterprise and civil society: institutional framework and paths toward
green development." (Xinhua/Ou Dongqu)

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Neonicotinoids linked to recent fall in farmland bird numbers

Research demonstrates for the first time the knock-on effects to other species of class of insecticides known to harm bees

The Guardian, Damian Carrington,  Wednesday 9 July 2014

A barn swallow hunting over a flowering oilseed rape field, Spain. Photograph: Alamy

New research has identified the world’s most widely used insecticides as the key factor in the recent reduction in numbers of farmland birds.

The finding represents a significant escalation of the known dangers of the insecticides and follows an assessment in June that warned that pervasive pollution by these nerve agents was now threatening all food production.

The neonicotinoid insecticides are believed to seriously harm bees and other pollinating insects, and a two-year EU suspension on three of the poisons began at the end of 2013. But the suspected knock-on effects on other species had not been demonstrated until now.

Peer-reviewed research, published in the leading journal Nature this Wednesday, has revealed data from the Netherlands showing that bird populations fell most sharply in those areas where neonicotinoid pollution was highest. Starlings, tree sparrows and swallows were among the most affected.

At least 95% of neonicotinoids applied to crops ends up in the wider environment, killing the insects the birds rely on for food, particularly when raising chicks.

The researchers, led by Hans de Kroon, an ecologist at Radboud University, in the Netherlands, examined other possible reasons for the bird declines seen during the study period of 2003 to 2010, including intensification of farming. But high pollution by a neonicotinoid known as imidacloprid was by far the largest factor.

“It is very surprising and very disturbing,” de Kroon said. Water pollution levels of just 20 nanograms of neonicotinoid per litre led to a 30% fall in bird numbers over 10 years, but some water had contamination levels 50 times higher. “That is why it is so disturbing – there is an incredible amount of imidacloprid in the water,” he said. “And it is not likely these effects will be restricted to birds.”

De Kroon added: “All the other studies [on harm caused by neonicotinoids] build up from toxicology studies. But we approached this completely from the other end. We started with the bird population data and tried to explain the declines. Our study really makes the evidence complete that something is going on here. We can’t go on like this any more. It has to stop.”

David Goulson, a professor at the University of Sussex, who was not involved in the new studies, said the research was convincing and ruled out likely alternative causes of bird decline. “The simplest, most obvious, explanation is that highly toxic substances that kill insects lead to declines in things that eat insects.”

There was little reason to doubt that wildlife in the UK and other countries were not suffering similar harm, he said. “This work flags up the point that this isn’t just about bees, it is about everything. When hundreds or thousands of species or insect are being wiped out, it’s going to have impacts on bats, shrews, hedgehogs, you name it. It is pretty good evidence of wholesale damage to the environment.”

Goulson said that, unlike the Netherlands, the UK did not monitor neonicotinoid pollution and the EU ban would not remove the substances from the environment. “They are still being widely used, as the moratorium only applies to three neonicotinoids and some crops. There is still a lot of them going into the environment. The door is far from shut.”

A spokesman for Bayer CropScience, which makes the neonicotinoid that was examined in the study, disputed the findings. “It provides no substantiated evidence of the alleged indirect effects of imidacloprid on insectivorous birds. Bayer CropScience is working with the Dutch authorities and agricultural stakeholders to ensure the safe use of imidacloprid-containing crop protection products and to preserve the environment.”

He added: “Neonicotinoids have gone through an extensive risk assessment which has shown that they are safe to the environment when used responsibly according to the label instructions.”

But de Kroon said new research, including his own, was showing that neonicotinoids posed an even greater threat than had been anticipated and new regulations had to take this into account. In 2012, MPs warned regulators appeared to be “turning a blind eye” to the harm caused by neonicotinoids.

David Gibbons, head of the RSPB centre for conservation science, said: “This elegant and important study provides worrying evidence of negative impacts of neonicotinoid insecticides on birds. Monitoring of neonicotinoid pollution in UK soils and waterways is urgently required, as is research into the effects of these insecticides on wildlife.”

A Defra spokesperson said: “Pesticide use across Europe is tightly regulated to protect the environment and public health – [pesticides] are a safe, effective and economical means of managing crops. We continue to review evidence on neonicotinoids.”

Also on Wednesday, further research showing that neonicotinoids damage the natural ability of bees to collect food was published in the journal Functional Ecology. The work used tiny tags to track bees and found those exposed to the insecticide gathered less pollen.

“Exposure to this neonicotinoid seems to prevent bees from being able to learn essential skills,” said Nigel Raine, a professor at the University of Guelph, Canada. He said the regulatory tests, which only looked for short-term, lethal effects, were failing to prevent serious harm. “These tests should be conducted for extended periods to detect the effects of chronic exposure.”

Related Articles:

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Climate change new engine of China, US ties

Want China Times, Xinhua 2014-07-09

Factory chimneys in Datong, Shanxi province, May 1, 2013. (File photo/CNS)

Clean energy, the environment and climate change will be the new engines of China-US ties, said a Chinese official ahead of the sixth China-US Strategic and Economic Dialogue.

China and the US are faced with similar challenges and share common interests in terms of climate change and clean energy, said Xie Zhenhua, deputy director of China's National Development and Reform Commission, at the 2014 China-US EcoPartnership Workshop on Tuesday.

As both China and the US are building clean, low-carbon economies, they can push forward relations in these areas, said Xie.

Jonathan Elkind, assistant secretary of US Department of Energy International Affairs office, said that there can be no solution to climate change and environmental protection without Chinese and US participation.

The EcoPartnership Workshop is a platform for cooperation among local governments and organizations under the US- China Ten Year Framework for Cooperation on Energy and Environment signed during the fifth Strategic and Economic Dialogue in 2008.

There are currently 24 active EcoPartnerships between the two sides, and another six pairs will be added this weekend, including China Petrochemical Corporation, General Electric and Environmental Defense Fund.

The program facilitates the exchange of information and best practices to foster innovation and develop solutions to challenges in environmental and energy areas.

Related Articles:

Monday, July 7, 2014

Shale gas should remain underground

The government wants to largely ban 'fracking.' But the policy drafted by the economics and the environment ministries are not strict enough for the opposition. The draft law will be ready after the summer break.

Deutsche Welle, 7 July 2014

Economics Minister Sigmar Gabriel and Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks want to legally regulate fracking as soon as possible. Fracking splits rocks at a depth of1000 - 5000 meters through hydraulic pressure. During the process, a liquid mixture of water, sand and chemicals is pressed into the ground. Cracks appear in the rocks, releasing gas which is then brought to the surface through casing pipes.

The US is using this method on a large scale to exploit shale gas. The country is experiencing a veritable gas boom, but it has to live with the risks of polluting the ground and drinking water as well as increasing earthquakes. Estimates about the potential untapped gas reserves under Germany's surface vary a lot. The Federal Environment Agency is estimating 1.3 trillion cubic meters, while the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources is estimating 2.3 trillion cubic meters. With this amount Germany's gas supplies would be covered for 13 to 27 years.

A wide-ranging ban is planned

Hendricks and Gabriel, ministers from the left-leaning Social Democrats, don't want to take any risks. "There won't be fracking of shale-gas and coal gas for economic reasons in the foreseeable future," says a policy paper, which they recently published together. On Friday afternoon, Hendricks emphasized that these would be the strictest rules that have ever existed in the area of fracking.

Germany's Environment Minister Barabara
Hendricks wants strict rules for fracking
But upon closer examination, the rules have some major loopholes. Although the proposed policy has the protection of public health and drinking water as its highest priority, the fracking ban only applies at a depth shallower than 3000 meters. Additionally, the testing of technology is permitted if the fracking liquid won't endanger the groundwater.

First thelaw will apply until 2021 and then "the appropriateness of the ban will be reviewed." Fracking for so-called tight gas, which is found in low porosity silt or sand areas, is also permitted. Germany has been extracting tight gas since the 1960s.

The opposition is protesting

The Green Party has reacted to the key issue paper with strong criticism. The chairman of the Greens' parliamentary group, Oliver Krischer, has called it a "fracking enabling law." His party is expecting "a regulation which does not allowing fracking in Germany and without loop holes that are as big as barn door."

Some forms of fracking are
already carried out in Germany
"Fracking must be banned in Germany without any exceptions," said Hubertus Zdebel from the Left party. He's a member of the parliamentarian committee for environment, conservation, construction and reactor safety.

To say that there is a fracking ban in the paper is "window dressing," Zdebel said. "They want to enforce a regulation which mostly allows fracking under the guise of an alleged ban,” he continued. The planned restrictions would still allow the exploitation of half of all unconventional gas deposits in Germany, the Left party politician said, citing estimates from the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources.

Zdebel went on to say that the risks which are associated with fracking cannot be ruled out despite the planned restrictions. There remains an information deficit on the potential environmental impact of fracking and there are major risks, like uncontrolled methane gas emissions, the Left party politician said.

The industry is hoping

Oliver Krischer from the Green Party
generally opposes fracking
However, the Federation of German Industries (BDI) is hoping that pilot projects will prove that fracking is possible without substantial damage to the environment.

"At the moment, we don't know everything about deposits and the extraction process. But knowledge won't be gained by waiting and bans. I'm convinced that we now need responsible pilot projects,” wrote BDI President Ulrich Grillo in a guest article for the "Rheinische Post" newspaper. "It's about time that politics gives technological progress in a responsible framework a chance. Pilot projects, accompanied by both science and the public, will deliver new knowledge and the basis for a clever and final decision."

The Environment Ministry and the Economics Ministry will work on a draft law during the summer months. They plan to present the needed changes in the water resources act and the mining law to the Cabinet in autumn. The draft law will then go to the parliament, where it will be discussed in the responsible committees.

It can be expected that the draft law will be heavily discussed in the coming weeks and months. Brewers, mineral water producers, and water suppliers will oppose a lax regulation. Hannelore Kraft (SPD), premier of North Rhine-Westphalia, recently pointed out: “As long as I'm premier of North Rhine-Westphalia, there won't be fracking of unconventional natural gas production.”

Saturday, July 5, 2014

U.S. Guarantees $230 Million Loan For Construction of Latin America’s Largest Solar Plant

EcoWatch, Brandon Baker, July 3, 2014

A large solar power plant is coming to Chile’s Atacama Desert, and the U.S. is providing financial support to make it happen.

Tempe, AZ-based First Solar will construct the 141-megawatt Luz del Norte plant with the aid of a loan guarantee of up to $230 million from the Overseas Private Investment Corp., the U.S. government’s financial development institution, the company announced. The loan guarantee partly arises from President Barack Obama’s desire to work with Chile on expanding the clean energy futures for both nations.

“We’re both very interested in energy and how we can transition to a clean energy economy,” Obama told The Associated Press. “And we’ll be announcing some collaborations, including the facilitation of a construction of a major solar plant inside of Chile that can help meet their energy needs.”

Chile hopes to increase its renewable energy capacity to 20 percent
of power generation by 2025. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Obama spent time with Chilean President Michelle Bachelet earlier this week to begin talks of making a stronger connection between the two countries. The U.S. is already the largest lender to Chile, having approved nearly $900 million of loan guarantees for six renewable energy generation projects in Chile in just over a year. The International Finance Corp. also approved a $60 million loan for Luz del Norte.

“The Latin American region has a growing need for innovative and efficient energy solutions right now,” said Tim Rebhorn, senior vice president of the Americas for First Solar. “This investment support from OPIC and IFC is instrumental in bringing the project in Chile to life.”

The Atacama Desert receives some of the planet’s steadiest concentrations of direct sunlight, according to First Solar. The country wants to increase renewable energy to 20 percent of its total power generation by 2025.

“The Luz del Norte project is an important step in furthering solar power development in Chile, where the potential for this clean, renewable resource is unrivaled,” OPIC President and CEO Elizabeth Littlefield said. “OPIC is proud to support this investment in Chile while helping an innovative American company like First Solar expand its operations and create new markets for its products abroad.”

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Biogas benefits in Tanzania

Biogas is becoming an important source of energy in Tanzania. It is gradually replacing traditional fossil fuels and, as a regional project shows, is also bringing about a rethink of traditional gender roles.

Deutsche Welle, 2 July 2014

For Diana Mangula, cooking has become much easier now that she no longer has to struggle with the smoke-emitting firewood she used to burn on her three-stone stove.

Mangula never enjoyed using the firewood that filled her entire house with smoke. But, like most residents of Ibumila village in the Njombe region of Tanzania, she has now found a cleaner source of energy to fulfil her cooking and lighting needs.

Biogas is a clean, combustible, renewable gas produced by organic waste. Agriculture experts say it is much cheaper than traditional fossil fuel since farmers can obtain it from their own resources.

Diana Mangula cuts grass to feed
her three cows
Just a few minutes a day

Mangula, a 37-year-old mother of three, used to spend a lot of time and energy collecting firewood. But ever since she installed a biogas plant four years ago, all her miseries are over as she can now generate enough energy to meet her family's growing needs, thanks to her three dairy cows.

"Just imagine, I only spend a few minutes every day mixing cow dung with water and the moment I feed it into the digester, I am assured of enough energy," she said.

The biogas digester consists of two containers, one for mixing manure and water and the other for collecting the resulting biogas which is enough to fire a cooking stove and several gas lanterns.

According to researchers from Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) in Morogoro, biogas technology is increasingly becoming a relevant source of energy for households that keep dairy cattle in Njombe, as it covers their cooking and lighting needs and also helps farmers to cut down the use of charcoal, firewood and kerosene.

Joint project

Together with the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU), SUA is running a project looking at the productivity of the dairy farming system in Njombe.

The majority of people in rural Tanzania who do not have access to grid electricity depend on traditional fossil fuels for lighting and cooking and this exerts huge pressure on the country's forests.

"I have been spending a lot of money buying kerosene but it has now been replaced with gas and I am now saving the money," Mangula said.

Slurry, a by-product of biogas, is a very good fertilizer

According to the Tanzanian Domestic Biogas Program (TDBP), which is also involved in the project, biogas use has noticeably eased the lives of rural women and children who often bore the brunt of family responsibilities, for example, by collecting firewood.

TDBP Program Coordinator Shila Lehada told DW that independence from traditional fossil fuels can save a household using biogas up to 600,000 Tanzanian shillings ($355, 260 euros) every year.

According to Lehada, biogas investment has also resulted in a changing perception of gender roles as male members of the families are actively involved in preparing inputs for biogas.
"We help each other, everybody feels they have a role to play, there's nothing like 'this is a woman's job'," Mangula said, confirming Lehada's findings.

In her case, the dairy cattle have improved her family's nutrition by increasing their milk consumption. And the income from selling milk to the local factory has also helped her to buy fish and meat.

As a result, her family has been able to double the amount of meals a day from two to four since cooking is now much easier.

“When I was still using wood I could hardly prepare breakfast for my children before they went to school but now I have the comfort to do so,” Mangula said.

Five year project

Biogas technology was first established in Njombe in 2004 with the aim of making farmers' energy sources more environmentally friendly. Under a five-year project dubbed "Enhancing Pro-Poor Innovations in Natural Resources and Agricultural Value Chains" (EPINAV). funded by the Norwegian government, farmers are learning best practices and techniques to improve agricultural productivity.

Ndelilio Urio, a conservation agriculture expert and professor at SUA, told DW that bio-slurry has proved to be a more nutritious fertilizer than ordinary dried manure since the amount of urea in the slurry works better as a nitrogen supplement for the soil.

"We have trained farmers on how to use bio-slurry as fertilizer, especially in their home gardens where they produce vegetables and fruits." Urio said. He agreed with Shila Lehada's observation that because of these economic benefits men are now taking a greater interest in feeding the biogas plants with the necessary inputs.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Fertilizers and pesticides are killing China's farmland

Want China Times, Staff Reporter 2014-07-01

A farmer lays fertilizer on a corn field in Heilongjiang province.
(File photo/Xinhua)

Heavy use of fertilizer and pesticides has helped China's northeast region become the country's top grain producer but at the cost of polluting the soil, which will take years to rectify, the Beijing-based Economic Observer reports.

The northeast, which includes the three provinces of Heilongjiang, Jilin and Liaoning, as well as the eastern part of the Inner Mongolia autonomous region, accounted for 24.1% of the country's grain production in 2013, with the northeastern most province of Heilongjiang the leading producer among them.

Local farmers told the paper that fertilizers have allowed them to double production and grow crops no matter how poor the soil is. One said fertilizers and pesticides are necessary because of the vast scale of their farms and the high cost of hiring workers to remove weeds.

However, Zhang Qingfeng, who runs a fertilizer wholesale business in Heilongjiang, predicted there may be no land suitable for cultivation in three or four generations since the heavy use of chemical fertilizers will lead to calcification of the soil.

Liu Hui, a research fellow at the Heilongjiang Academy of Agricultural Sciences, said the use of chemicals is on the rise across China and the problem is more serious in the southern part of the country because of higher temperatures and pest problems. These chemicals also enter the water used on the farms, creating further pollution, Liu added.

Moreover, southern China is also experiencing more serious heavy metal pollution because of the number of mines in the region, according to Liu.

At a forum in Qingdao in eastern China on June 5, Yao Jingyuan, an economist and special researcher for the State Council, said there have been too high expectations of bumper harvests over the past decade.

Yao said China uses four times as much fertilizer as the United States, three times that of India and that chemicals are the main reason behind the production surge, since the area of land used for farming is shrinking.

Liu said the problem is difficult to solve since it takes time to remove chemical pollutants from soils, and the shortage of grain in China makes it impossible to introduce crop rotation that would allow the land to recover.

Meanwhile, Zhang said farmers choose to use ammonia, which accounts for 95% of the fertilizer market, because of its lower price and that government intervention is needed to help turn the tide.

Liu added that the government should impose a ban on unsafe and toxic chemical fertilizers and pesticides, because farmers are unlikely to make the change of their own volition.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

With new tech tools, precision farming gains traction

Yahoo – AFP, Rob Lever, 29 June 2014

Andrew Isaacson watches from a tractor in a corn field as screens show where
 he has fertilized at the Little Bohemia Creek farm on June 17, 2014 in Warwick, 
Maryland (AFP Photo/Brendan Smialowski)

Warwick (United States) (AFP) - At Little Bohemia Creek Farm, the tractor pretty much drives itself, weaving through rows of corn using GPS technology as it injects carefully dosed amounts of fertilizer.

Farm employee Andrew Isaacson sits in the cab -- his main job is to monitor computer screens that control the vehicle and sprayer.

"I just turn it around at each end," he says.

A trench made for injecting liquid fertilizer
 is seen between rows of corn at the Little
 Bohemia Creek farm June 17, 2014 in
 Warwick, Maryland (AFP Photo/Brendan
With computers guiding field operations "it makes it easier in some ways but at the same time it makes it harder. You have to put more information in".

The farm on Maryland's eastern shore is part of a growing "precision agriculture" movement that uses high-tech tools to replace seat-of-the-pants farming.

GPS auto-steered tractors cut down or eliminate overplowing and overlap that wastes fuel and time. Other technologies can sense just how much water is needed in a field to cut irrigation costs.

At Little Bohemia Creek, the tractor's sensors gauge the health of various segments of a field to deliver fertilizer and other chemicals more efficiently, which has an environmental benefit.

"This technology allows for more intricate data collection to make decisions," says Rich Wildman of the agricultural consulting firm Agrinetix, which provides technology advice at the farm.

This permits the farmer to "do more fertilization or seed planting to match the needs of a field within an inch variation," he said.

Various studies suggest farmers can save between 10 to 20 percent on fertilizer and chemicals, while improving yields.

- Farming in the cloud -

Little Bohemia Creek owner Jon Quinn, 48, is using for the first time this year the system called GreenSeeker, from California tech firm Trimble.

"I don't know if I'm using less nitrogen, but I'm putting it in the right place," Quinn explained.

If that holds true, the fertilizer will mainly be absorbed by the corn instead of running off into nearby rivers.

Paul Spies of the Chester River Association, an environmental group, said Quinn is one of a handful of farmers in the pilot project, which aims to show the benefits of this technology.

"You're asking farmers to alter what they have been doing for years," Spies said. "They want to see proof that it will work."

Quinn also participates in a "precision planting" project with Monsanto, using data from his field to determine how seeds fare in different soil types.

"I download it to my iPad, and it goes to the cloud so they can see it," he said.

These technologies mean farmers need to crunch big data.

A sensor that uses visible and invisible
light to judge crop health is used at the
Little Bohemia Creek farm on June 17,
 2014 in Warwick, Maryland (AFP Photo/
Brendan Smialowski)
"The real power is when you can take that data so farmers can see how different parts of the field yielded and think about (crop) management changes," said Joe Foresman, a specialist with the DuPont precision farming division Pioneer.

Jess Lowenberg-DeBoer, a Purdue University agricultural economist, said that in the past 15 years, technologies such as GPS and auto-steering have become the norm in mechanized farming in the United States and other countries, from Australia to Kazakhstan to Sweden.

"The economics are incredibly clear," he said. "You make gains either with higher yield or lower costs, and sometimes with improved quality."

Purdue researchers found more than 80 percent of US farm equipment being sold includes these technologies, which would mean hundreds of thousands of farms.

For newer technologies like soil and crop sensors, mapping and analytics, Lowenberg-DeBoer said the picture is mixed, because specialized training is needed to reap benefits. Just seven percent of US farm dealers offered sensor-driven equipment in 2013, Purdue researchers found.

"It will transform agriculture but it's not clear now exactly how it will do it," he said.

- Bring in the drones -

Also on the horizon is the use of drones to provide real-time data to farmers to pinpoint crop problems in time to fix them.

"We can detect plant problems before they are detectable through the naked eye," said Dennis Bowman, a University of Illinois crop specialist who tests drones for farm use.

But drone use is limited while US authorities study safety issues -- an issue clouded by the more prominent drone applications for military and intelligence purposes.

"We would like to see common sense rules that look at the situation in agriculture," Bowman told AFP.

While corn and other grains have been the main focus of precision agriculture, Florida-based AgerPoint seeks to do the same for fruit trees and vineyards, using laser scanning to give producers data on plant health, and early hints on diseases and other problems.

A sensor is seen attached to a tractor
drawn liquid fertilizer applicator at the
 Little Bohemia Creek farm June 17, 
2014 in Warwick, Maryland (AFP Photo/
Brendan Smialowski)
"This next generation of growers want real-time access to all the data on their crops," said AgerPoint president Thomas McPeek. "The more informed the growers become, the better decisions they make and the more money they make."

The advances mean farmers need to consider upgrading equipment like tractors and combines, which give them real-time data to view on smartphones.

"They're all skeptical at first," says Bryan Peterman, a sales manager at Atlantic Tractor in Delaware.

"But this is a generational issue. You have the younger generation who use smartphones and iPads who are quick to use this. But we have to show the farmers that it is user-friendly and that it saves money."

Dale Blessing, who farms on several thousand acres in Milford, Delaware, said he decided to add a harvesting combine with auto-steering which sends data to the cloud and makes it available to him in real time.

"It's just more efficient," he said. "You can make more with less."