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)

Obama unveils landmark regulations to combat climate change

Obama unveils landmark regulations to combat climate change
In a bid to combat climate change, US President Barack Obama announced the Clean Power Plan on Monday, marking the first time power plants have been targeted by mandatory regulations on carbon dioxide emissions in the US.
Google: Earthday 2013

Friday, December 31, 2010

200,000 people affected by flooding in Australia

The Jakarta Post, Associated Press, Brisbane | Fri, 12/31/2010

More than 200,000 people have been affected by relentless flooding in northeast Australia, with the flood zone now stretching over an area bigger than France and Germany combined, officials said Friday.

Thousands of homes and businesses across Queensland state have been inundated with water after days of pounding rain caused swollen rivers to overflow. The entire population of two towns was forced to evacuate as water swamped their communities, cutting off roads and devastating crops.

Northeastern Australia often sees heavy rains and flooding during the Southern Hemisphere summer, but the scope of the damage from the recent downpours is extremely unusual, Queensland Premier Anna Bligh said.

"This is without a doubt a tragedy on an unprecedented scale," Bligh told Australian Broadcasting Corp. "We now have 22 towns or cities that are either substantially flooded or isolated because the roads have been cut off to them. That represents some 200,000 people spanning an area that's bigger than the size of France and Germany combined."

Thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes this week. In the central Queensland town of Emerald, around 1,000 people were evacuated in the last 24 hours. The town was facing the prospect of food shortages, power outages and sewage-contaminated floodwaters, county mayor Peter Maguire said.

Three evacuation centers have been set up to help displaced residents. Weather across most of the state was drier on Friday, but river levels were still rising in some areas. Bligh warned that drenched communities could be stuck under water for more than a week, and cleanup efforts were expected to cost billions of dollars.

Rockhampton, a city near Queensland's coast, was bracing for a deluge of river water heading its way. Roads and railway lines were expected to be cut off by Saturday, and the city's airport planned to shut down over the weekend. Officials were evacuatin residents on Friday, starting with the elderly and those living in low-lying areas.

There were concerns over food supplies in the city, with many stores already sold out of bread, milk and fresh meat, Rockhampton Mayor Brad Carter said. Gary Boyer, regional manager of supermarket chain Woolworths, sad the company was sending 43 trucks full of supplies into Rockhampton on Friday.

Queensland launched a disaster relief fund for flood victims with 1 million Australian dollars ($1 million) in state money. Prime Minister Julia Gillard pledged to match that amount with federal funds.

Gillard was touringflooded communities on Friday, and planned to stop in Rockhampton later in the day. Earlier, she toured the city of Bundaberg, where about 60 people have taken shelter at an evacuation center.

Resident Sandy Kiddle told Gillard she lost cherished items after floodwaters surged through her house, and ma not be able to return home for a week. "It was just a sea of water and I thought the beach would never come to our house," she told Gillard, who gave her a hug.

Rare early morning 3.8 earthquake rattles Indiana

Examiner, December 30th, 2010 11:58 am ET

An early morning earthquake rattled central Indiana and was felt by some Chicago residents as well. The United States Geological Survey reported a 3.8 magnitude tremor struck about 15 miles east-southeast of Kokomo, Indiana at 7:55 AM EST or 6:55 AM local time. The quake was originally reported as a magnitude 4.2, but that has since been reduced.

The epicenter was located at 40.427°N, 85.888°W, at a depth of 4.9 kilometers (3 miles), or about 50 miles north-northeast of Indianapolis. The director of the Indiana Geological Society stated that the quakes location at three miles below the ground was "highly irregular" and "extremely rare" in an area that is not seismically active.

Residents in Chicago and other Illinois towns reported their beds shaking and ceiling fans moved early Thursday when the tremor struck. Other residents in Indiana reported their homes rattling and shaking for about 5 to 7 seconds. Experts said that a quake of this magnitude would feel like a loaded truck passing by your home.

As of 9:30 AM CST, there were no reports of damage or injuries.

There were no reports of any shaking from upstate New York or the Albany area, but there was one report of weak shaking felt in Pittstown, New Jersey. Albany is about 650 miles from the epicenter of the earthquake. Stay tuned for any further developments on this story throughout the day.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Inuit lives and diets change as ice shifts

CNN News, By Catriona Davies for CNN, December 30, 2010

An Inuit hunter in an opne boat near Holman Island, Canada. due to thin and unstable
sea ice cover, boats are becoming more common in winter months. (Courtesy Tristan Pearce)

  • Hunting difficulties have led to greater reliance on processed shop-bought food
  • Traditional knowledge on safe routes across ice is no longer reliable
  • Buildings are tipping as the ice they are built on shifts

(CNN) -- Climate change is altering diets and lifestyles among Inuit people, according to a scientist who has studied the human face of global warming in the Arctic.

Barry Smit, a professor at the University of Guelph, Canada, has spent five years leading research projects into how melting ice and changes in wildlife habits are impacting the lives and livelihoods of far northern communities.

Among his most striking findings was that increasing difficulty in hunting for traditional food was leading to much more junk food in the Inuit diet.

"People looking at the health of the Inuit have demonstrated that the traditional diet, which is almost exclusively raw meat, is in fact very healthy for them," Smit said. "But because of the new difficulties hunting, people are adapting their diets to what's available in the stores.


"The stores only have food that's easy to transport and doesn't perish, so there are no vegetables. The young people are increasingly eating highly processed junk food, so we are seeing more teeth problems and obesity."

The difficulties in hunting are caused by shifting ice and changing migratory patterns among animals such as seals, walrus, types of whales and polar bears, which form a large part of the traditional diet, Smit said.

He also noted that the shifting ice made hunting and traveling more dangerous.

Smit said: "Ice is fundamental to their livelihoods and culture. Most of their activities involve traveling on the ice.

"Over the past decade or so, they have noticed that the behavior of the ice is changing, so their traditional roads are not as safe as they used to be."

He added: "They could be hunting on the edge of the ice and whole blocks of ice break off and drift out to sea, so they have immediate safety concerns."

This unpredictability undermines traditional knowledge of safe routes across the ice.

"There are social implications because the respect for elders has been maintained by their wisdom about when and where to travel on the ice," said Smit.

"But now elders will say it's safe to travel to a particular place at a certain time, and people have problems there. That undermines the traditional knowledge of the elders."

He added that houses built on permafrost were tipping as the ice shifted.

Tristan Pearce, one of Smit's researchers, also from the University of Guelph, who spent time with communities in Northwest Territories, Canada, said: "Due to thin, unstable, temporary sea ice cover that is vulnerable to winds and currents, aolagots (open boats) are becoming more common in winter months presenting new hunting opportunities and dangers to hunters."

He added: "Several studies project that the Arctic Ocean may become seasonally ice-free by the year 2040 or even earlier."

Smit studied Inuit as part of a Canadian project called ArcticNet, and collaborated with scientists from other Arctic regions as part of the International Polar Year.

He led a team of researchers who built up-close relationships with communities in the Arctic, and invited people from those communities to join the project as co-researchers.

Smit said: "We have been to document from the perspective of people who live in the Arctic how conditions are changing and how they are dealing with it to get a sense of how they might adapt in the future."

Four million people are estimated to live in the world's Arctic regions, across Canada, Alaska, Greenland, Norway and Russia, Smit said. In the far northern Arctic regions of Canada, the population is 85% Inuit, he added.

Smit said the average temperature rise since pre-industrial times was conventionally estimated at 1.2 degrees Celsius globally, and 2-3 degrees Celsius in the Arctic.

The United States' National Snow and Ice Data Center reported that the extent of Arctic sea ice cover at the end of November this year was the second lowest on record, and 12% below the 1979-2000 average for November.

"You can look at a big map of the world and see the changes from climate change, but we are trying to put a local human face on this and find how people are affected and how they deal with it," said Smit.

A team of scientists, lead by Professor James J. Corbett of the University of Delaware published a paper in October warning that increased shipping as new ice-free sea routes opened up would further add to climate change in the Arctic.

Smit said opinions among the communities were divided on the implications of the opening up of shipping routes through the Arctic Ocean, speeding up oil, gas and mineral exploration and tourism.

"If you look over the next couple of decades, the transformation will be huge. It won't be an Arctic environment at all and people will have to modify their way of life completely," he said.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

December 2010 NY Blizzard Timelapse

December 2010 Blizzard Timelapse. Canon DLSR on tripod with remote timer taking a photo once every five minutes.

Approximately 20 hours in 40 seconds. More at Facebook: Mike Black Photography

Sunday, December 26, 2010

7.3 Quake Triggers Pacific Tsunami on Disaster Anniversary

Jakarta Globe, December 26, 2010

Hawaii. A powerful 7.3-magnitude earthquake struck off the western Pacific nation of Vanuatu on Sunday, triggering a small tsunami exactly six years after giant waves killed 220,000 people around the Indian Ocean.

An aerial shot shows flattened houses near the sea coast of
Banda Aceh on Jan.5, 2005. The west coast of Aceh province was
devastated by the December 26, 2004 earthquake and subsequent
tsunami wave. (AP Photo)
The Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said the shallow quake generated a tsunami, but it cancelled a regional warning after the wave measured only 15 centimetres (six inches) higher than normal in Vanuatu.

"Sea level readings confirm that a tsunami was generated," the centre said in its bulletin.

"This tsunami may have been destructive along coastlines of the region near the earthquake epicentre," it said, but cancelled the warning when no destructive wave hit.

The quake struck at 12:16 am on Sunday (1316 GMT Saturday), and the initial tsunami warning covered Vanuatu, Fiji and the French Pacific territory of New Caledonia. There were no reports of damage or casualties.

Jackie Philip, a member of staff at the Melanesian Port Vila Hotel in the Vanuatu capital, said the hotel was busy with late-night Christmas revellers when the quake struck.

"Some of us, we ran outside and stood and watched the sea for a few minutes but nothing happened. There is no damage and no injuries," he said, adding that no tsunami warning had been given on local radio.

A receptionist at Port Vila's Grand Hotel called it a "small" earthquake, adding that calls to the meteorological office went unanswered. Staff at the nearby Island Magic Hotel also said there had been no local tsunami warning.

"We haven't had any notification of a tsunami," a worker told AFP. "We definitely felt the earthquake but we are notified if there's actually a tsunami."

Meteorological and disaster management officials were not available for comment when contacted by AFP.

The US Geological Survey said the quake was just 12.3 kilometres (7.6 miles) deep, and its epicentre was 145 kilometres (90 miles) west of Isangel, on the island of Tanna -- home to an active volcano -- in the Vanuatu archipelago.

The USGS revised its initial readings for the magnitude and distances involved, after first recording the quake at 7.6.

At least a dozen aftershocks of magnitude 5.0 or greater hit the area in the hours after the main tremor, according to USGS.

Vanuatu, which lies between Fiji and Australia and north of New Zealand, is part of the "Pacific Ring of Fire" -- an ocean-wide area alive with seismic and volcanic activity caused by the grinding of enormous tectonic plates.

Sunday's quake came on the sixth anniversary of one of the worst natural disasters of modern times, when a huge tsunami triggered by an undersea quake off Indonesia killed more than 220,000 people around the Indian Ocean.

After the disaster, which came with little or no warning for millions of coastal residents, regional governments deployed a string of monitoring buoys in the Indian and Pacific Oceans to keep track of any abnormal waves.

In August, a 7.5-magnitude earthquake off Vanuatu generated a small tsunami and sent thousands of frightened people running for the hills.

In September last year, Samoa in the Pacific suffered its worst natural disaster when three rapid-fire quakes of up to 8.1 magnitude unleashed waves as high as 15 metres (50 feet) that flattened villages and tourist resorts.

The seismic catastrophe claimed 143 lives in Samoa, 34 in the US-administered territory of American Samoa and another nine in Tonga.

Vanuatu lies between Australia and Fiji and has a population of 220,000 scattered across several islands including Tanna, south of Port Vila, where the fiery Yasur volcano is a major tourist draw.

Agence-France Presse

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Powerful earthquake hits south-east Iran

BBC News, 21 December 2010

A powerful earthquake has hit south-eastern Iran, killing at least seven people and destroying several villages in Kerman province.

The governor of Kerman said hundreds of people had been injured by the 6.5-magnitude quake with the epicentre near the city of Bam.

The quake was also felt in Iran's Sistan-Baluchestan province.

Bam was devastated by a huge earthquake in 2003 in which tens of thousands died.

Reports said the quake hit Hosseinabad, a small town of a few hundred residents in a sparsely populated region at 2212 local time (1842 GMT).

Telephone contacts to the stricken area have been cut off, Iranian TV reported. Rescue teams have been sent to the area.

Related Article:

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Volcano erupts in Russian Far East, December 17, 2010

A volcano in the Russian Far East peninsula erupted several days ago, prompting experts to raise the hazard level caused by the possible massive eruption.

The volcano Kizimen, located in the Kamchatka Peninsula, has spewed ashes as high as 10 km into sky and the western slope of the mountain has been covered with ashes due to high winds.

The snow on the slope was thawing quickly, pushing river water level up by 60 cm.

Specialists don't rule out the possibility of a massive eruption of Kizimen, which has remained dormant for 80 years.

A helicopter would soon be sent to the site to check whether the eruption was still going on.

The nearest human settlement is about 110 km away from the volcano.

The Kamchatka Peninsula has a high density of volcanoes, flanked by large volcanic belts containing about 160 volcanoes, with 29 of them still active.

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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Mummified Forest Found on Treeless Arctic Island

Pines, spruces buried in landslide millions of years ago, when area was warmer.

A piece of ancient wood found recently in the Canadian Arctic. (Photograph courtesy Joel Barker)

Mason Inman in San Francisco, for National Geographic News, December 17, 2010

The ancient trees were found in a dry,
cold valley in northern Canada.
Photograph courtesy Joel Barker.
An ancient mummified forest, complete with well-preserved logs, leaves, and seedpods, has been discovered deep in the Canadian Arctic, scientists say.

The dry, frigid site is now surrounded by glaciers and is completely treeless, except for a few bonsai-size dwarf trees. (See Arctic aerial pictures.)

The forest was discovered recently by a research team who'd heard a surprising story from rangers in Quttinirpaaq National Park. The park is located on Ellesmere Island (see map), one of the world's northernmost landmasses.

The rangers had come across wood scattered on the ground from much larger trees than the few dwarfs currently in the area, including logs that were several feet long.

"Walking through the area, they're everywhere," said Joel Barker, an environmental scientist at Ohio State University who's leading a study of the mummified forest. "You'd have trouble not tripping over them."

The park rangers "had no idea what they were," but Barker suspected they must be millions of years old.

When Barker and colleagues found where the scattered logs were coming from—a slope that had been eroded by a river—they dug in and found many more logs, as well as leaves and seedpods.

"When we started pulling leaves out of the soil, that was surreal, to know that it's millions of years old and that you can hold it in your hand," Barker said at an annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco earlier this week.

Ecosystem on the Edge?

The mummified trees were likely preserved so long because they were buried quickly by landslides and thus protected from air and water, which hastens decomposition.

By studying features of the logs, leaves, and seedpods, the team identified some tree species, including pine, birch, and spruce. (See pictures of interesting tree patterns.)

The mummified forest seems to resemble modern forests growing hundreds of miles to the south, suggesting the forest must have grown during a time when the Arctic was much warmer, Barker said.

Based on the tree species, the scientists think the forest lived between ten and two million years ago.

The small number of species also suggests the ancient forest was "an ecosystem right on the edge of being able to survive," according to Barker.

For instance, other mummified forests found farther south in Canada have a wide variety of trees.

By counting tree rings in some of the logs, the team found the trees were at least 75 years old when they were entombed. But the rings were very small, showing that the trees grew extremely slowly.

"The conditions there were absolutely brutal"—being barely warm enough for the trees to live, Barker said.

Mummified Forest a Window Into Climate Change

Robert Blanchette, a plant pathologist at the University of Minnesota who has independently studied ancient wood from the same region, called the new discovery "extraordinary."

"Finding wood that is millions of years old in such good condition—almost as if you just picked it up from the forest floor—will provide an exceptional opportunity," he said.

For instance the wood allows the team "to get the clearest view possible of what the world was like during a time when the Earth's climate was drastically changing."

Indeed, by studying the mummified forest, the team hopes "to see how fast the climate was changing, and how the plants were responding," Barker noted.

The scientists also want to get a better idea of how the local forest responded as the planet cooled around five million years ago, changing from "greenhouse" to "icehouse" conditions.

The current trend of global warming is pushing Earth back from its Ice Age "icehouse" conditions—with large ice sheets and many glaciers—to a "greenhouse" with little ice overall, Barker noted.

Related Article:


New Mini Ice Age

"The weather you have today, and all the alarming attributes of it, is a scenario of what was scheduled to happen on Earth anyway. I review again that the weather changes you are seeing prophesied by myself, 21 years ago, are not a surprise. The changes are not caused by the pollutants you put in the air. You call it global warming and that's a nice phrase, and perhaps that will get you to put less pollutants in the air – a very good thing. But what you are seeing in the weather shift today was not caused by Humans putting things into the air. It would have happened anyway in about 300 years."

"We've called this process the water cycle, since it's all about water, not about air. The water is the predominant attribute of Gaia and of the weather cycle you're seeing. More predominant is the temperature of it. The cycle is ice to water and water to ice, and has been repeated on this planet over and over and over. It is not new. It is not exceptional. It is not frightening. But it's a cycle that modern humanity has not seen before, and it's a long cycle that is beyond the life span of a Human Being. Therefore, it tends to be overlooked or not seen at all !"

"In the days of the Lemurians, the water level of the Pacific Ocean was almost 400 feet lower, and that's only 50,000 years ago. [Kryon invites science to check this out – the water level at that time.] That was a water cycle working, and the reason it was lower was due to so much of the water being stored as ice. Today you're going through another water cycle that will eventually lead to cooling. The last one was in the 1400s."

"Science sees that at about 1650. As mentioned, they are so slow there is no remembrance that a Human has of them except in past writings and in the rings of the trees. The time span of the changes is so great that environmental record keeping does not exist in the form that it does today. But you can still look at the rings of the trees and at the striations of the rocks and can generally figure out that a few hundred years ago, you had a mini-ice age. Now you're going to have another one."

Friday, December 17, 2010

Government pushes solar power in six western states

Reuters, By Tom Doggett,WASHINGTON | Thu Dec 16, 2010

An array of solar panels point to the Nevada sky as they generate electricity for use
on Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, Nevada May 27, 2009. (
Credit: Reuters/Jason Reed)

(Reuters) - The Obama administration on Thursday proposed special energy zones on public lands in six western states deemed good locations to build utility-scale facilities to produce electricity from solar power.

The Interior Department issued a draft environmental impact statement that looked at the effect of solar energy projects able to generate 20 megawatts of power in areas that have the highest solar potential and will do the least harm to the environment.

"As stewards of our public lands, we must make sure that we are developing renewable energy in the right way and in the right places," Salazar told reporters.

The western states targeted with 24 solar energy zones were Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada and Utah.

Bob Abbey, who heads the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management, the agency that will review any specific solar projects, said the amount of electricity that could be generated by the sun on all BLM lands in the six states, including, the designated energy zones could total 24,000 megawatts over 20 years.

The department does not have an estimate for solar generation just on the designated energy zones.

"For years, the oil and gas industries have had an easy path for getting permits to drill on public lands. With today's announcement, solar energy projects are now closer to a more predictable review and approval process for projects on public lands," said Rhone Resch, president of Solar Energy Industries Association.

The proposal will be open for public comment for 90 days and the department expects to issue a final report during the fall of 2011, said Salazar.

The solar energy zones will help meet President Barack Obama's goal to double the amount of U.S. electricity generated by renewable energy sources like solar, wind and geothermal.

The department's energy zone proposal comes a day after the U.S. Senate approved extending a Treasury Department program through next year that gives companies a rebate equal to 30 percent of the cost of their solar or wind energy projects.

To be successful, Salazar said solar projects in the six western states will need access to transmission lines.

Federal regulators proposed last month reforms to make the U.S. electric grid more accessible to electricity generated by renewable energy sources, which should lower costs for consumers who want to buy clean power.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission proposed a rule requiring public utility transmission providers to allow renewable power producers to schedule their shipments of electricity over shorter time periods to better reflect the moment-to-moment changes in generation output by renewables.

Solar and wind power producers would be able to schedule transmission service in 15-minute intervals, instead of the current one-hour scheduling procedure.

(Reporting by Tom Doggett;editing by Sofina Mirza-Reid)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Gulf of Mexico oil leak: US sues BP over oil disaster

BBC News, 15 December 2010

US Oil Spill

The US is suing BP and eight other firms for allegedly violating federal safety regulations in connection with the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

The Deepwater Horizon rig explosion led to the
worst environmental catastrophe in US history
The lawsuit asks that they be held liable without limitation for all clean-up and damage costs.

The Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explosion in April killed 11 workers and spilled millions of barrels of oil over several months.

The oil leak became the worst environmental disaster in US history.

The lawsuit charges the companies under the US Clean Water Act and Oil Pollution Act.

US Attorney General Eric Holder said the complaint alleged that "violations of safety and operational regulations" caused the 20 April explosion.

The companies named in the lawsuit are BP Exploration and Production Inc, Anadarko Exploration & Production LP, Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, MOEX Offshore 2007 LLC, Triton Asset Leasing GMBH, Transocean Holdings LLC, Transocean Offshore Deepwater Drilling Inc, Transocean Deepwater Inc and insurer QBE Underwriting Ltd/Lloyd's Syndicate 1036.

The key accusations are:
  • Failing to take necessary precautions to keep the Macondo well under control in the period leading up to the 20 April explosion
  • Failing to use the best available and safest drilling technology to monitor the well's conditions
  • Failing to maintain continuous surveillance
  • Failing to use and maintain equipment and material that were available and necessary to ensure the safety and protection of personnel, equipment, natural resources and the environment
  • "We intend to prove that these defendants are responsible for government removal costs, economic losses and environmental damages without limitation," Mr Holder said.

"As investigations continue, we will not hesitate to take whatever steps necessary to hold accountable those responsible for this spill."

In a statement, BP said the filing "does not in any manner constitute any finding of liability or any judicial finding that the allegations have merit".

BP said it would continue to co-operate with government inquiries and fulfill its commitments to clean up spilt oil in the Gulf.

Halliburton, the company that cemented the Macondo well, and Cameron International, which provided equipment for the well, were not targeted in the lawsuit.

But the justice department said on Wednesday that the investigation into the oil spill was ongoing and that more defendants and charges could be added to the lawsuit.

Mr Holder did not specify a timetable for legal proceedings, instead saying the US would move as quickly as possible in the matter.

Charges disputed
Transocean disputed the charges brought by the government, saying that it should not be held liable for the actions of others.

"No drilling contractor has ever been held liable for discharges from a well under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990," the company said in a statement.

"The responsibility for hydrocarbons discharged from a well lies solely with its owner and operator."

Before the White House's announcement on Wednesday, more than 300 lawsuits had been filed related to the spill and consolidated in federal courts in New Orleans.

People working in the fishing and tourism industries, as well as the owners of restaurants and various properties along the Gulf of Mexico, were among those involved in the suits.

The latest news in the BP disaster follows the federal government's decision not to open new areas of the coast along the eastern Gulf and Atlantic to drilling.

Eleven workers on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig were killed by the explosion on 20 April, and hundreds of miles of coast were polluted before the leaking well was closed off in July.

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Antarctic Melting as Deep Ocean Heat Rises, By Larry O'Hanlon

Global warming is sneaky. For more than a century it has been hiding large amounts of excess heat in the world's deep seas. Now that heat is coming to the surface again in one of the worst possible places: Antarctica.

New analyses of the heat content of the waters off Western Antarctic Peninsula are now showing a clear and exponential increase in warming waters undermining the sea ice, raising air temperatures, melting glaciers and wiping out entire penguin colonies.

"In the area I work there is the highest increase in temperatures of anywhere on Earth," said physical oceanographer Doug Martinson of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. Martinson has been collecting ocean water heat content data for more than 18 years at Palmer Island, on the western side of the Antarctic Peninsula.

"Eighty-seven percent of the alpine glaciers are in retreat," said Martinson of the Western Antarctic Peninsula. "Some of the Adele penguin colonies have already gone extinct."

Martinson and his colleagues looked not only at their very detailed and mapped water heat data from the last two decades, but compared them with sketchier data from the past and deep ocean heat content measurements worldwide. All show the same rising trend that is being seen in Antarctica.

"When I saw that my jaw just dropped," said Martinson. The most dramatic rise has happened since 1960, he said.

What the rising water heat means, he said, is that even if humanity got organized and soon stopped emitting greenhouse gases, there is already too much heat in the oceans to stop a lot of impacts -- like the melting of a huge amount of Antarctic ice.

"There's the potential that we're locked into long term sea level rise for a long time," Martinson told Discovery News. Martinson presented his latest ocean heat results on Monday at the meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.

As for how fast the ice will melt and in what locations, that depends largely on whether the upwelling warm water comes in contact with the thick ice shelf that crowds the coast and holds the block the glaciers from reaching the sea.

That, in turn, depends on the winds which drive away the surface waters and make it possible for the deeper waters to rise to the surface, said senior researcher Robert Bindschadler of NASA's Goddard Earth Science and Technology Center and the University of Maryland-Baltimore County.

"It can destroy the ice shelf if that heat can get to it," said Bindschadler, who at the same meeting presented his work from the melting Pine Island Ice Shelf in Antarctica.

Now that the upwelling deep sea water is the clear cause of the melting ice shelf, rather than summer melt water, as had been thought in the past, it's a question of how winds will change in a warming world and whether they will drive more warm water into the ice shelves.

"So we have thrown the problem back over the fence to the climate modelers," said Bindschadler.

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