Scientists hope to breed sheep that emit less greenhouse gases

Here's looking at you, Babe.

Scientists are working to breed sheep that produce less greenhouse gases in order to reduce their impact on the environment.

The Grass to Gas initiative will combine international scientific and industry expertise to measure two major factors affecting the environmental consequences of the livestock – feed efficiency and methane emissions.

Its goal is to develop ways to identify animals with a lower impact, which can then be selected for breeding programmes.

Nicola Lambe, a sheep geneticist at Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), said: “The reduction in greenhouse gas emissions is a global issue requiring a transnational and transdisciplinary approach.

“It will also contribute towards addressing the argument about the effect of eating meat on global warming, with sheep making use of land often unsuitable for other agricultural production, except conifers – at least in the UK.”

The research led by SRUC will use lambs bred from male sheep – known as sires – sourced from the Texel Sheep Society’s Texelplus programme, to investigate the effects of sire and breeding values on these measurements.

Data will also be analysed to quantify the economic and environmental benefits of improvements in feed efficiency and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

Source: The Guardian newspaper article here.

 

How Rollbacks at Scott Pruitt’s E.P.A. Are a Boon to Oil and Gas


Devon Energy’s Beaver Creek gas plant outside Riverton, Wyo. The company was prepared to install sophisticated equipment to reduce emissions of hazardous air pollution. Since Scott Pruitt assumed the helm of the Environmental Protection Agency, the company has pulled back from its proposals. Credit Ryan Dorgan for The New York Times

FREMONT COUNTY, Wyo. — In a gas field here in Wyoming’s struggling energy corridor, nearly 2,000 miles from Washington, the Trump administration’s regulatory reversal is crowning an early champion.

Devon Energy, which runs the windswept site, had been prepared to install a sophisticated system to detect and reduce leaks of dangerous gases. It had also discussed paying a six-figure penalty to settle claims by the Obama administration that it was illegally emitting 80 tons each year of hazardous chemicals, like benzene, a known carcinogen.

But something changed in February just five days after Scott Pruitt, the former Oklahoma attorney general with close ties to Devon, was sworn in as the head of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Devon’s pushback, coming amid an effort to ease a broad array of federal environmental rules, is the first known example under the Trump administration of an accused polluter — which has admitted violating the law — backing away from a proposed environmental settlement. It is already being hailed by other independent energy companies as a template for the future.

The E.P.A. has not yet made a public response to Devon’s new posture, and Mr. Pruitt declined to comment for this article. But the new approach follows a series of important victories for the energy industry in Washington that could reshape environmental policy on a national scale and undermine the Obama administration’s campaign to combat climate change.

In just the last three months, with Mr. Pruitt in charge, the E.P.A. postponed a long-planned rule requiring companies like Devon to retrofit drilling equipment to prevent leaks of methane gas — a major contributor to climate change — and to collect more data on how much of the gas is spewing into the air.

”Devon is doing to the oil and gas industry what Donald Trump did to the Republican Party, pushing the whole agenda into a world of extremes,” said Mark Brownstein, a vice president at the Environmental Defense Fund.

The rollbacks cap a carefully coordinated campaign over the last eight years led in part by Devon, which is based in Oklahoma City and is the nation’s eighth-largest natural gas producer, and Mr. Pruitt, who served six years as Oklahoma attorney general before Mr. Trump named him E.P.A. chief.

Devon and Mr. Pruitt, while he was still attorney general out West, teamed up to block new federal rules imposed by the Obama administration that required fossil fuel companies to more closely monitor oil and gas wells for leaks, and disclose chemicals used in hydraulic fracking. Devon also poured millions of dollars a year into lobbying — and hundreds of thousands into campaign contributions to Mr. Pruitt and other Republicans — as it pushed regulators and lawmakers in Washington to do away with the restrictions.

Read the complete article on the New York Times web site.

US nuclear dump ready to blow says government report

The Defence Nuclear Facilities Safety Board recommended additional monitoring and ventilation of the Hanford, Washington, under-ground tanks last fall as many of the site’s single-shell tanks, which have just one wall, have leaked in the past, and state and federal officials announced in February that six such tanks are leaking anew.

Central to the cleanup is the removal of 212 million litres of highly radioactive, toxic waste left from plutonium production from underground tanks.

hanford

The US federal government created Hanford in the 1940s as part of the secret Manhattan Project to build the atomic bomb. It spends billions of dollars to clean up the 1,518-squarekilometre site neighbouring the Columbia River, the southern border between Washington and Oregon and the Pacific Northwest’s largest waterway.

Federal officials have said six underground tanks at the site are leaking into the soil, threatening the groundwater, and technical problems have delayed construction of a plant to treat the waste for long-term safe disposal.

In addition to the leaks, the board noted concerns about the potential for hydrogen gas buildup within a tank, in particular those with a double wall, which contain deadly waste that was previously pumped out of the leaking single-shell tanks.

“All the double-shell tanks contain waste that continuously generates some flammable gas,” the board said. “This gas will eventually reach flammable conditions if adequate ventilation is not provided.”

The U.S. government spends about $2 billion US annually on Hanford cleanup – roughly one-third of its entire budget for nuclear cleanup nationally.

World is warming map

According to The Economist:

The world is warming

ON NOVEMBER 29th representatives of countries from around the world gathered in Cancún, Mexico, for the first high-level climate talks since those in Copenhagen last December. Incremental progress is possible, but continued deadlock is likelier. What is out of reach, as it was at Copenhagen, is agreement on a plausible programme for keeping climate change in check. The world warmed by about 0.7°C in the 20th century and by the end of the 21st century temperatures will be 3°C warmer than at the beginning of the industrial revolution. Increases in average temperature will be less noticeable than those in extremes. According to a 2009 comparison of over 20 climate models by David Battisti and Rosamond Naylor, by 2050 there is a 10-50% likelihood that the average summer in much of the world will be hotter than any summer recorded until now. By 2090 the likelihood of this happening rises to 90% in many places. For more on climate change, see article.

World Heat Map

World Heat Map from The Economist magazine

 

Another world temperature map, this one from Wolfram “Global Climate Studies”, click Here.

New picture ebook for children, “Doug’s Big Idea”

I’ve finished a new ebook for children titled “Doug’s Big Idea”. It is a picture ebook for children 2-5 years old, although older children may enjoy it, about a young beaver named Doug.

The forest where Doug lives is destroyed by fire. But Doug has an idea that helps all the animals in the forest, and the forest itself. The picture story book follows Doug as he sees how thinking of others, and of the environment, can make the world a better place.

I hope to have it available on Smashwords and other outlets some time this week or next week.

Update, September 18, 2010: My picture story ebook “Doug’s Big Idea” is now available on Smashwords for $0.99, at Amazon/Kindle, Apple, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Diesel, and other popular online book stores.

Doug's Big Idea, by Ted Summerfield