EcoWatch Launches Petition to Expedite Renewable Energy
In 2009 it seemed as though Congress was finally going to pass legislation that would transition our country to a renewable energy future. The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, also known as the Waxman-Markey Bill, would have created a cap and trade system on greenhouse gases, required electric utilities through a renewable electricity standard (RES) to meet 20 percent of their electricity demand through renewable energy sources and energy efficiency by 2020, subsidized renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies, and financed modernization of the electrical grid, among many other provisions.
The bill was approved by the House of Representatives on June 26, 2009 by a vote of 219-212, but died in the Senate. The vote was the first time either house of Congress had a bill on the floor that would curb the heat-trapping gases scientists have linked to climate change. Though the bill included some not so favorable items, such as subsidies for carbon capture and sequestration, and not nearly an aggressive enough RES, it would have been considerably better than doing nothing.
In addition to what seemed like progress on federal energy legislation, nearly 20 states had passed their own energy bills mandating a RES with a variety of percentages of renewable energy being generated in upcoming years. These states were at the forefront of the renewable energy evolution and are responsible for thousands of renewable projects that bolstered local economies by creating green jobs and increasing manufacturing of solar and wind products in the U.S. Finally, it looked as if the renewable energy marketplace was gaining ground and we were going to pass federal energy legislation that would create a sustainable economy.
I spent that year lobbying and educating EcoWatch readers on the Waxman-Markey Bill and Ohio's energy bill SB 221, working at the local level on solar and wind zoning, and fighting the proposed 1,000-megawatt conventional coal-fired power plant that American Municipal Power of Ohio planned to build in the already sacrificed-zone of Meigs County, Ohio. Feeling like my advocacy work wasn't enough, I launched Expedite Renewable Energy, a company which helps businesses and residents through the many steps of investing in solar and wind projects.
Unfortunately the federal bill failed, and with the new leadership in the House following the 2010 Congressional elections no hope remained that an energy bill mandating a RES and cap and trade system would be prioritized again any time soon. In addition, some of the strong energy bills passed on the state level began diminishing in return depending on the leadership in each state. In Ohio, SB 221 remains active but the main incentive driver, the Advanced Energy Fund, sunsetted and was not renewed which has significantly decreased the amount of investment in renewable energy projects and the economic boost the state was receiving in green jobs and manufacturing.
Now three years later, I'm left feeling like we took two steps forward and ten steps back. The amazing part is that a large majority of Americans want renewable energy and understand the implications of continued reliance on fossil fuels—like coal, natural gas and oil—and know that if we don't transition to cleaner sources of energy now, the air we breathe and the water we drink will continue to be compromised to a point of no return.
So what's keeping us from moving forward when we live in a democratic society? For me, it's as simple as money in politics. We need to reverse Citizens United and get money out of politics once and for all. But we can't completely blame the political system. It is also up to every American to educate themselves on these issues and implement sustainability practices to reduce energy usage and conserve our natural resources.
Of course the grassroots environmental movement plays a vital role in educating people and encouraging strong environmental policy. That is why EcoWatch is taking on the call to unite the voices of the grassroots environmental movement and all Americans around a honed in message asking Congress to expedite renewable energy.
Today, EcoWatch.org is launching a petition that outlines a renewable energy policy that we believe everyone in the grassroots movement and fellow Americans can support. We are asking you to sign the petition directed to the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources and House Energy & Commerce Committee. This petition can help serve as a basis for bipartisan legislation that members of Congress can introduce in their committees and ultimately on the House and Senate floor.
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By Jason Bruck
Human actions have taken a steep toll on whales and dolphins. Some studies estimate that small whale abundance, which includes dolphins, has fallen 87% since 1980 and thousands of whales die from rope entanglement annually. But humans also cause less obvious harm. Researchers have found changes in the stress levels, reproductive health and respiratory health of these animals, but this valuable data is extremely hard to collect.
Researchers work with trained dolphins to learn more about their sensory abilities, seen here testing a dolphin's hearing. Jason Bruck / CC BY-ND
A Lot to Learn From Hormones<p>When sampling the blow, we are looking for hormones in mucus as these can be used to gauge psychological and physiological health. We are specifically interested in <a href="https://dx.doi.org/10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0114062" target="_blank">hormones like cortisol</a> and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ygcen.2018.04.003" target="_blank">progesterone</a>, which indicate stress levels and reproductive ability respectively, but can also help determine overall health.</p><p>Additionally, blow samples can detect <a href="https://dx.doi.org/10.1128%2FmSystems.00119-17" target="_blank">respiratory pathogens</a> in the lungs or nasal passages - blowholes evolved from noses after all.</p><p>This health analysis is especially important in areas with oil spills as the chemicals can cause hormonal problems that harm <a href="https://www.carmmha.org/investigating-how-oil-spills-affect-dolphins-and-whales/" target="_blank">development, metabolism and reproduction</a> in dolphins.</p><p>Hormone samples can provide scientists with valuable data, but collecting them from intelligent and unpredictable animals is challenging.</p>
Cetacean Collaborators<p>To build a drone that can stealthily collect spray from moving dolphins, we needed more data on their eyesight and hearing, and this is data that couldn't be collected in the wild nor simulated in a lab.</p><p>We worked with dolphins at facilities like Dolphin Quest in Bermuda, which provides guests opportunities to learn about dolphins while allowing <a href="https://dolphinquest.com/about-us/our-story/" target="_blank">scientists access to animals for noninvasive research</a>. Here the dolphins can swim away if they choose not to work with us, so we had to design the study like a game; the way a kindergarten teacher entertains a class. If the dolphins aren't interested, we don't get to do the science.</p><p>Over the course of hundreds of sessions, we sought to answer two questions: What can dolphins hear and what can they see around their heads?</p><p>To test dolphin hearing, we set up microphones and cameras to record dolphin behavior as we played drone noise in the air. We analyzed the responses to each noise – such as how many dolphins looked at the speaker – and used these as a proxy for their ability to hear the sounds.</p>
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Robodolphin doesn't look like a real dolphin, but it doesn't need to in order to train our drone pilots. C.J. Barton / Oklahoma State University / CC BY-ND<p>To build robodolphin, we worked with dolphins trained to "chuff" or sneeze on command to measure spray characteristics. We used high-speed photography to see the dolphins' breath as it moved through the air. Then we conducted high resolution CT scans of a dolphin head and 3D-printed a replica of a nasal passage.</p><p>Now, we have a complete robodolphin and are tweaking its sprays to be nearly identical to the real thing. This will allow us to determine how close we need to get to collect the samples, and therefore, how quiet our drone needs to be.</p>
The replica dolphin blowhole was designed from a scan of a real blowhole passage, and the spray it produces closely matches the real thing. Alvin Ngo, Mitch Ford and CJ Barton / Oklahoma State University / CC BY-ND
A Bit of Practice, Then Into the Wild<p>In the next few months, we will test flights over robodolphin with existing drones to determine the timing and strategy for collection. From there, we will fabricate a low-noise drone that can fly fast enough and with sufficient maneuverability to capture samples from wild dolphins. Like a video game, we will use the visual field data to develop approach trajectories to stay in the visual blindspots.</p><p>We plan to test our drones on a truck-mounted robodolphin moving down a runway, then using a boat to simulate realistic conditions. The next steps will involve ocean testing with dolphins trained for open ocean swimming. These tests will determine if our devices can catch and hold the hormones as the drone flies back to a researcher's boat.</p><p>Finally, we will deploy the system to collect data on wild dolphins. Our first goal is to test resident dolphins – animals that live on the coasts and deal directly with boat and oil industry noise – which will allow us to learn more about stress resulting from human impacts.</p><p>Those samples are a way off, but if all goes well we will have a specially built drone capable of flying long distances and capturing samples undetected in a few years. The samples collected will allow researchers to do better science with impact on the animals they study.</p>
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Billions worth of valuable metals such as gold, silver and copper were dumped or burned last year as electronic waste produced globally jumped to a record 53.6 million tons (Mt), or 7.3 kilogram per person, a UN report showed on Thursday.
Environmental and Health Hazard<p>Experts say e-waste, which is now the world's fastest-growing domestic waste stream, poses serious environmental and health risks.</p><p>Simply throwing away electronic items without ensuring they get properly recycled leads to the loss of key materials such as iron, copper and gold, which can otherwise be recovered and used as primary raw materials to make new equipment, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions from extraction and refinement of raw materials.</p><p>Refrigerants found in electronic equipment such as fridge and air conditioners also contribute to global warming. A total of 98 Mt of CO2-equivalents, or about 0.3% of global energy-related emissions, were released into the atmosphere in 2019 from discarded refrigerators and ACs that were not recycled properly, the report said.</p><p>E-waste contains several toxic additives or hazardous substances, such as mercury and brominated flame retardants (BFR), and simply burning it or throwing it away could lead to serious health issues. Several studies have linked unregulated recycling of e-waste to adverse birth outcomes like stillbirth and premature birth, damages to the human brain or nervous system and in some cases hearing loss and heart troubles.</p><p>"Informal and improper e-waste recycling is a major emerging hazard silently affecting our health and that of future generations. One in four children are dying from avoidable environmental exposures," said Maria Neira, director of the Environment, Climate Change and Health Department at the World Health Organization. "One in four children could be saved, if we take action to protect their health and ensure a safe environment."</p>
Europe Leads the Way<p>While most of the e-waste was generated in Asia (24.9 Mt) in 2019, Europe led the charts on a per person basis with 16.2 kg per capita, the report said.</p><p>But the continent also recorded the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/the-eu-declares-war-on-e-waste/a-51108790" target="_blank">highest documented formal e-waste collection and recycling</a> rate at 42.5%, still below its target of 65%. Europe was well ahead of the others on this front. Asia ranked second with 11.7%.</p><p>The authors said while more that 70% of the world's population was covered by some form of e-waste policy or laws, not much was being done toward implementation and enforcement of the regulations to encourage the take-up of a collection and recycling infrastructure due to lack of investment and political motivation.</p><p>"You have to think about new economic systems," said Kühr.</p><p>One approach could be that consumers no longer buy the products, but only the service they offer. The device would remain the property of the maker, who would then have an interest in offering his customers the best service and the necessary equipment. The maker would also be interested in designing his products in such a way that they are easier to repair and easier to recycle, Kühr said.</p>
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