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newsclips -- Newsclips for May 2, 2012

Posted: 02 May 2012 14:32:50
This is a service of the California Air Resources Board’s Office
of Communications. You may need to sign in or register with
individual websites to view some of the following news articles.

Spare the Air smog season starts Tuesday in the Bay Area.  The
Bay Area's Spare the Air smog season begins Wednesday, opening
the weather window for hot smoggy days when the public may be
asked to drive less and avoid strenuous outdoor exercise.  The
Bay Area Air Quality Management issues the Spare the Air
advisories when it forecasts that smog will violate federal
public health standards somewhere in the nine-county region. The
district issued an average of 11 smog advisories annually the
last four years.  Posted. 


Group's lawsuit targets coal-fired power plant. An environmental
group has filed a federal lawsuit claiming a Texas coal-fired
power plant violates the Clean Air Act. The suit filed Tuesday in
Waco federal court claims Luminant's Big Brown coal-fired plant
exposes the public to harmful air pollution. The suit says the
company's own data shows the power plant near Fairfield violated
its particulate matter limits at least 370 times in the past 3
1-2 years. Asthma and other respiratory ailments are associated
with particulate matter, commonly known as dirt and soot. Posted.


Clouds’ Effect on Climate Change Is Last Bastion for Dissenters.
For decades, a small group of scientific dissenters has been
trying to shoot holes in the prevailing science of climate
change, offering one reason after another why the outlook simply
must be wrong. Over time, nearly every one of their arguments has
been knocked down by accumulating evidence, and polls say 97
percent of working climate scientists now see global warming as a
serious risk.  Yet in recent years, the climate change skeptics
have seized on one last argument that cannot be so readily
dismissed. Their theory is that clouds will save us. Posted. 

An Underground Fossil Forest Offers Clues on Climate Change. In
the clammy depths of a southern Illinois coal mine lies the
largest fossil forest ever discovered, at least 50 times as
extensive as the previous contender. Scientists are exploring
dripping passages by the light of headlamps, mapping out an
ecosystem from 307 million years ago, just before the world’s
first great forests were wiped out by global warming. This vast
prehistoric landscape may shed new light on climate change today.

South Korea approves carbon trading scheme.  South Korea's
lawmakers approved a national emissions trading scheme on
Wednesday to tackle its growing greenhouse gas emissions,
overcoming strong industry opposition and joining a growing
number of nations to put a price on carbon.  Of the 151 lawmakers
who voted, 148 approved the scheme, underscoring bipartisan
support for a cap on carbon emissions, in stark contrast with the
United States and Australia where emissions trading has been
deeply divisive.  Posted. 

Critics say Discovery Channel’s ‘Frozen Planet’ sidesteps climate
change issue.  The Discovery Channel’s popular “Frozen Planet”
series states that global warming is harming arctic habitats. But
it doesn’t mention what the majority of the world’s scientists
believe: Accelerated warming is caused by carbon pollution from
humans.  On Tuesday, a group devoted to spreading the news on
climate change complained about the network’s decision to omit
that information. Calling it “dangerous self-censorship” that
only satisfies climate deniers, Forecast the Facts delivered an
online petition with what it said were 10,000 signatures to the
network’s Silver Spring headquarters.  Posted. 

Fracking 'Health Challenges' to Be Examined by U.S. Advisers. 
The Institute of Medicine will examine whether the process of
hydraulic fracturing to extract natural gas from rock "poses
potential health challenges," a Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention official said.  Health concerns related to fracking,
in which millions of gallons of chemically treated water are
forced underground to break up rock and free gas, include the
potential for water contamination and air pollution, Christopher
Portier, director of CDC's National Center for Environmental
Health, said at a workshop in Washington today.  Posted. 

Biogas Takes a Hit.  Many environmentalists hope that biogas will
help California meet its renewable-energy goals. Also called
biomethane, it's sourced from landfills, dairies, and machines
known as digesters that turn decomposing organic material into
combustible-fuel sources for power plants. But in a
little-noticed decision that could impact the future of some
types of biogas statewide, the California Energy Commission on
March 28 suspended the certification of new pipeline biogas
suppliers. The suspension targets methane gas that is injected
into regional pipeline systems and mixed with other gas sources
intended to fuel power plants that supply the state's electricity
grid.  Posted. 

Cruise-ship industry fights cleaner-fuel rule. The heavy fuel
that oceangoing vessels burn adds so much to air pollution
hundreds of miles inland that the United States joined with
Canada during President George W. Bush's administration to ask
the International Maritime Organization to create an
emissions-control area along the coasts. Large ships would be
required to reduce pollution dramatically in a zone 200 miles out
to sea along all the coasts of North America, mainly by using
cleaner fuel. The cargo-shipping industry supported the stringent
emission reductions. The cruise-ship industry, however, wants an
emissions-averaging plan that would allow it to burn the same
heavy fuel it always has used in some areas, and it's lobbying
Congress for help. Posted. 

Fighting coal export terminals: It matters.  As I wrote in my
last post — and have been writing for years — coal is on the
decline in the U.S. The biggest driver of this trend is the
current low cost of natural gas from fracking, but it also has to
do with increasing competition from renewables, the aging of the
U.S. coal fleet, organized grassroots opposition, new EPA
regulations, and slowing demand for electricity [PDF].  The rapid
move away from coal is hitting U.S. coal-mining companies where
it hurts.  Posted. 


Auto sales stay strong in April. Americans bought 1.18 million
cars and trucks in April, up 2.3 percent from a year earlier.
Sales were still strong, but growth slowed a bit from earlier in
the year. Analysts said there's no sign that the auto sales
recovery is faltering. Toyota made a comeback while General
Motors and Ford stumbled. WHAT THEY BOUGHT: There were bright
spots and lows in just about every corner of the market.
Fuel-efficient cars were still hot sellers. Sales of Toyota's
Prius gas-electric hybrids more than doubled, and the Camry
midsize car was up 21 percent. Ford, Chrysler and General Motors
all sold more pickups during the month. Ford's F-Series sales
rose 4.4 percent. WHAT'S NEXT: Automakers and analysts are
optimistic for the rest of the year as consumer confidence
continues to rise. General Motors raised its full-year forecast
for the whole U.S. market by 500,000 cars and trucks, to a range
of 14 million to 14.5 million. Posted. 

Incentives: EV and PHEV sales projected to take off in Israel
next month.  Given that the purchase tax on internal combustion
engine (ICE) vehicles in Israel is one of the highest in the
world reaching the rate of 83%, the lowered purchase tax on
electric, plug-in hybrid and other hybrid cars introduced within
the Tax Authority’s green taxation policy will be a huge
financial incentive for potential EV buyers.  The Finance
Ministry said in a statement that it hopes to strike a long-term
balance in the way it taxes different technologies, allocating
tax credits to vehicles according to how much they pollute. The
officials say the benefits for Israeli car buyers who take
advantage of the incentives are collectively worth NIS 130
million (around € 26 million) over the next several years. 
Posted.  http://beta.cars21.com/news/view/4618

Supercomputing Power Could Pave the Way to Energy-Efficient
Engines.  Neon lines and dots of aqua, violet, crimson, and pink
dissolve into smoky swirls—that's what the burning of fuel looks
like when it is simulated on one of the world's most powerful
supercomputers.  These psychedelic snapshots could pave the way
for the development of cars that use 25 percent to 50 percent
less fuel than the autos of today. But the problem of improving
upon the 150-year-old internal combustion engine is so complex
that the scientists who work on it are eager for a major
development in the supercomputing world to occur later this year.

Santa Rosa readies its electric vehicle charging stations. Santa
Rosa finally is ready to start charging people to charge their
electric vehicles. For $1 an hour, eco-conscious drivers of
Nissan Leafs, Chevy Volts and similar vehicles soon will be able
to plug in to some of the 13 charging stations the city installed
in 2010. The stations are a key component of the Sonoma County’s
growing “Electric Trail,” which aims to create a regional network
of public and private chargers that will encourage wider adoption
of all-electric vehicles. Posted. 


Air-pollution studies important for health.  Steve Milloy’s
recent Op-Ed (“Did Obama’s EPA relaunch Tuskegee experiments?”
Commentary, April 25) makes allegations about critical scientific
research into how air pollution might contribute to abnormal
heart rhythms.  The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA)
research into the health impacts of air pollution has helped to
build healthier communities, provide new technology and develop
new solutions to protect and manage air quality. In the case of
research into fine-particle pollution, more than 50 clinical
studies over the past decade involving human volunteers have been
published by scientists from the EPA, many U.S. universities and
medical centers. These describe cardiac effects in humans exposed
to this harmful pollution.  Posted. 

FEULNER: Behind ‘Fakegate’.  What could be more American than
encouraging a robust debate on one of the most controversial
issues of the day? The answer - for some on the left, anyway -
is: Lie about your opponents, and make a pathetic effort to
discredit them.  That, at least, is what an activist named Peter
Gleick decided to do in a backward attempt to promote his view
that global warming is unquestionably and primarily a man-made
phenomenon - one that will cause calamitous changes in the
environment.  Posted. 

Jose Solorio: Don't let CARB pick our cars.  What if your
favorite place to buy a coffee was expected by the state, without
being compensated, to sell a new product that may provide a more
effective caffeine-fueled energy boost than their specially grown
and brewed, traditional coffee beverages. Or, worse yet, what if
your favorite coffee place had to carve out shelf space for a
product not on the market yet, but will be – maybe, someday?
Outrageous, unfair, right? Government can't make a store sell
something – or can it?  The California Air Resources Board thinks
the answer to that question is yes. It is on a mission to
finalize a rule that would require certain gasoline
producers/importers to build and operate as many as 500 hydrogen
fuel stations, at a cost to them of over $1 billion. It is called
the Clean Fuel Outlets Program and could move forward despite the
fact that there are no publicly available, reliable figures as to
how many of those vehicles will be on the road in the foreseeable
future.  Posted. 

July Fourth laser show? Sounds like fun. Here's an idea whose
time seems to have come: Enjoy Fourth of July "fireworks" with
something other than fireworks. Celebrate the color and spectacle
of a dramatic showcase in the night sky without the sulfuric
aftertaste and cascading ash. That's the plan for at least three
San Joaquin Valley cities this summer, thanks to a planned
experiment by the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control
District. Traditional Independence Day fireworks displays fill
the air with smoke and metals like magnesium, copper and barium,
which can lead to skin irritations and muscle weakness. Between 9
a.m. and 11 p.m. each July 4, particulate readings often soar
many times beyond federal standards. Posted. 


Climate Change and the Body Politic. The latest installment in
our Temperature Rising series, just published, is about an
argument between mainstream climate researchers and contrarians
over how clouds will change on a warming planet. As their many
other objections to climate science have been undermined by the
growing evidence, the contrarians have settled on clouds as a
kind of last-resort reason that the scientific majority just has
to be wrong. In the course of reporting the article, I had some
intriguing conversations with scientists who had thought hard
about how to frame the problem of climate change in the public
mind. Posted. 

A Grim Portrait of Palm Oil Emissions. Indonesia ranks right
behind the United States and China in the lineup of the world’s
top 10 greenhouse gas emitters. It’s not because of smokestacks
or freeways, but massive deforestation starting in the 1990s —
driven In large part by the expansion of plantations for palm
oil, an edible vegetable oil used in cookies, crackers, soap and
European diesel fuel. In January, the Environmental Protection
Agency issued a proposed finding that biofuels derived from palm
oil feedstocks failed to meet the standards set by the agency’s
2007 renewable fuels mandate. While they were found to have lower
life-cycle emissions than conventional gasoline and diesel, palm
oil came up short of the 20 percent reduction in related
emissions that is required for inclusion in the new biofuel
blends. Posted. 

Chevy Volt sales drop to 1,462 in April, Nissan Leaf sales fall
to 370 *UPDATE. For anyone playing close attention to the
month-to-month sales results from the two leading plug-in
vehicles in the U.S., the Chevrolet Volt and the Nissan Leaf,
April had some depressing news. After selling a record number of
Volts in March – 2,289 – Chevrolet managed to move just 1,462 in
April. This is more inline with previous recent months (1,023
sales in February, 603 sold in January, 1,529 in December) and is
almost three times the 493 sold in April 2011. Posted. 

America's obesity problem equals a billion gallons of gas per
year. Newsflash: Americans are fat. And no, we're not just big
boned. Obesity has reached epidemic proportions over the past
couple decades, and as a result diabetes, heart disease and just
about every other health issue are on the rise. The Atlantic
reports that the amount of fuel we're using is on the rise as
well, as heavy occupants need more fuel to get from Point A to
*insert drive-thru joke here*. A 2006 study shows that Americans
weigh so much more than they did in 1960 that we're using up
almost an additional billion gallons of petrol every year.

Are e-Readers Really Green? The Millions has a great write-up of
the real impact of e-readers. Despite the notion that if you read
enough books on them, they'll have a lighter footprint than
printed books, the reality is something less appealing
altogether. "Necessarily, the increased consumption of print and
digital books has led to an ever-increasing demand for the
materials required to create, transport, and store them. In the
case of eBooks, though, vast amounts of materials are also
necessary for the eReaders themselves, and this is something
typically overlooked by proponents of digitization: the material
costs are either ignored, or, more misleadingly, they’re
classified as the byproduct of the tech industry instead of the
book industry... In other words: the carbon footprint of the
digital book industry is mostly growing in addition to, not to
the detriment of, the growing carbon footprint of the print book
industry." Posted. 

NADA Should Be Smiling: Auto Dealer Profits Are Up as
Fuel-Efficient Models Grow.  Consumers shopping for a new car
have more fuel-efficient options and auto dealers are seeing a
“renaissance” at their stores. The model year 2012 cars in
showrooms today are the first to meet fuel efficiency and carbon
pollution standards first announced in 2009. Since then, the
number of fuel-efficient models has more than doubled.  Auto
dealers are among the winners of the focus on efficiency.
AutoNation, the largest dealer group in the U.S., posted a 5
percent jump in first quarter profit compared to last year. Mike
Jackson, the CEO of AutoNation, recently told the Washington
Post, “The renaissance in auto retail is well under way.” Jackson
continued, “The American consumer has more choices than ever with
improved fuel efficiency, better technology, and accelerated
product offerings.”  Posted. 

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