By Claire L. Jarvis
A ruckus over biofuels has been brewing in Iowa.
Lobbying and Public Perception<p>The industry often referred to as "Big Corn" has a surprising amount of power and has actively intensified its lobbying efforts.</p><p>In 2018 <a href="https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/ethanol-lobbying-is-up-and-it-seems-to-be-paying-off/ar-BBP5hfy" target="_blank">several biofuel interest groups</a> each spent more than $1 million to lobby the government over the Renewable Fuel Standard, an average increase from 2017 of around $200,000. This is obviously small change compared with what the fossil-fuel industry spends — the biggest oil companies each spend $40-50 million every year — but the biofuel groups' efforts have paid off to some degree. Although the ethanol lobby has <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-biofuels-filing/biofuel-groups-file-petition-challenging-trump-administrations-small-refinery-waivers-idUSKBN1X21Q9" target="_blank">not made headway</a> reducing the number of small refinery waivers issued by the government, they're getting other desired results: The Trump administration <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/usa-biofuels/trump-administration-set-to-announce-new-plan-to-boost-ethanol-sources-idUSL5N26O5Z3" target="_blank">favors raising</a> the minimum ethanol volume in gasoline, something the oil and gas lobby opposes.</p><p>Critics say this lobbying has allowed the industry to successfully broaden its market without fully informing customers of the potential costs and concerns, which range from reduced gas mileage to increased air pollution.</p><p>Perhaps as a result, the public perception of biofuels — or what little we know about it — remains fairly positive.</p><p>Unsurprisingly, one place where public approval seems to be holding is Iowa, a state whose economy also depends on biofuels.</p><p>According to a public opinion poll by the Iowa Biodiesel Board, a state trade association, 65 percent of Iowans have a positive opinion of biodiesel, while just 4 percent have a negative opinion. Those numbers haven't changed much over time.</p><p>"It's holding pretty steady," said <a href="http://www.iowabiodiesel.org/en/about_us/staff_and_contractors/grant_kimberley/" target="_blank">Grant Kimberley,</a> executive director of the association.</p><p>A national voter poll by the American Biodiesel Board released in October 2019 <a href="https://www.biodiesel.org/news-resources/biodiesel-news/2019/10/09/National-Voter-Poll-Shows-Strong-Support-for-RFS-Biodiesel-Use" target="_blank">paints a similar picture</a>. More than half of survey participants said they believed the federal government should encourage the use of biofuels.</p><p>Outside of trade group polls, though, there isn't a lot of academic research on public attitudes to biofuels and biodiesel. Gallup and Pew Research opinion polls don't ask about them, so we don't know the true national consensus on biofuels, or whether biofuels are more popular than other nontraditional sources of energy such as fracking, solar or nuclear power.</p><p>What we <em>do</em> know comes from a few years ago.</p><p><a href="https://lsc.wisc.edu/facstaff/shaw-bret/" target="_blank">Bret Shaw</a><u>,</u> a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301421514002973" target="_blank">researched public attitudes</a> within his state. His <a href="https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/politics-and-the-life-sciences/article/public-attitudes-toward-biofuels-effects-of-knowledge-political-partisanship-and-media-use/250071D732DF1AF3DE934A0DDAE68760" target="_blank">papers</a> from <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0963662510390159" target="_blank">2011</a> and <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S030142151200763X" target="_blank">2012</a> (based on research conducted in 2009) are some of the most recent to document American opinion. Almost two-thirds of Wisconsinites surveyed told him they support the use of biofuels, which matches the Iowa poll. They correctly answered an average of 5 out of 9 questions about biofuels, demonstrating reasonably good knowledge.</p><p>However, Shaw's studies suggested that public opinion may be more malleable and precarious than those robust approval ratings imply. In his surveys he found that renaming "biofuels" as "ethanol" negatively affected the opinion of Democrats but didn't sway Republicans. Public opinion on both sides dipped when the surveys stated that adding biofuel blends could lower a car's gas mileage.</p><p>When asked about ethanol's impact on the environment, 41 percent believed it causes less damage than gasoline, 44 percent believed it was about the same and only 15 percent thought ethanol caused more environmental damage.</p><p>Shaw cautions that public attitudes may have shifted in the past decade, but his studies still present the clearest snapshot of public perception of biofuels — as well as the opportunity to better inform consumers about the products that go into their gas tanks.</p><p>So why should the public care, especially since they have so little choice in the matter?</p>
What the Public Doesn’t Know Can’t Hurt Them — Can It?<p>Advocates of biofuels around the country tout them as better for the environment than fossil fuels, a fact that polls tell us the public doesn't disagree with.</p><p>Scientists, on the other hand, have begun to question some of those environmental benefits. According to some studies, biodiesels emit <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11097388" target="_blank">more of</a> <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27696830" target="_blank">certain pollutants</a> than regular diesel, and biofuels can have a <a href="https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es101946t" target="_blank">larger</a> <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18258862" target="_blank">carbon footprint</a> than gasoline, depending on where you start in the production cycle. These findings don't seem to enter the public discourse.</p><p>Increased corn production can also <a href="https://www.ceres.org/resources/reports/water-climate-risks-facing-us-corn-production" target="_blank">harm farmland</a> because it causes farmers to cut back on crop rotation, a process essential to maintaining soil quality and reducing pests. Farmers also have an increased incentive to plant corn in ecologically sensitive grassland or wetlands.</p>
Corn stalks after harvest. Phil Roeder / CC BY 2.0<p>But the effects of biofuel production on wildlife and public health are subtle and hard to separate from the consequences of food production. This sets biodiesel apart from other sources of pollution and environmental health, such as fracking, which are often much more immediately visible. For example, images of <a href="https://therevelator.org/fracking-health-studies/" target="_blank">brown tap water</a> were enough to mobilize national opposition to fracking. Intensified corn production doesn't generate such arresting sights. Corn requires more fertilizer than other crops, and the toxic algal bloom caused by fertilizer runoff into the rivers is a visible consequence of increased corn production to meet biofuel demand. However, these blooms occur out of sight in the Gulf of Mexico.</p><p>The Union of Concerned Scientists advocates for cleaner energy, but stands neither for nor against biofuels.</p><p>"Our position is that all fuel producers should be cleaning up their act," said Martin. "More emphasis on 'how do we make biofuels better' rather than just 'let's have more biofuels'."</p><p>Although these problems have been identified and studied, if not widely discussed, some experts suggest that maybe they don't matter in the long term.</p><p>"When they passed the first Renewable Fuel Standard, every forecast was that demand for gasoline would rise forever with economic growth," said Martin. "Now most long-term forecasts reflect that gas consumption is likely to fall rather than rise. That means we're headed towards ethanol use falling."</p><p>He adds that wide-scale electric vehicle adoption, unthinkable in 2005, now looks closer to reality. Once that happens, ethanol use could go into freefall.</p><p>Back in Iowa, biofuels and biodiesel advocates remain bullish about market expansion, even though the government remains only partially on their side.</p><p>"In the near future we think we can easily double our industry," said Kimberley, who doesn't believe a widespread adoption of large electric vehicles in sectors like commercial trucking, where vehicles otherwise run on bio-blends of diesel, is coming anytime soon.</p><p>Meanwhile the <a href="https://www.politico.com/newsletters/morning-agriculture/2019/10/28/trumps-biofuel-policies-in-the-spotlight-781666" target="_blank">drama in Washington continues</a>. The House Energy and Commerce Committee recently held a<a href="https://energycommerce.house.gov/committee-activity/hearings/hearing-on-protecting-the-rfs-the-trump-administrations-abuse-of-secret" target="_blank"> subcommittee hearing</a> on the Trump plan to exempt certain oil refiners from the Renewable Fuel Standard's biofuel blending requirements. That plan made oil companies happy but enraged Iowa farmers. For now, that tension may continue to grow.</p>
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Production of hemp was banned in the United States in 1937 under the Marihuana Tax Act.
A strain of Cannabis sativa, its low concentrations of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) mean it won't get you high. The internet is abuzz, though, with claims that it's a green fix for a host of environmental ills.
The oil crushed from hemp seeds can go into everything from salad dressings to biofuels.
For many people, the holidays are rich with time-honored traditions like decorating the Christmas tree, lighting the menorah, caroling, cookie baking, and sipping from the unity cup. But there's another unofficial, official holiday tradition that spans all ages and beliefs and gives people across the world hope for a better tomorrow: the New Year's resolution.
Benefits of Chamomile Tea<p><strong>Sleep More Soundly</strong></p><p>Pick your grandmother's brain about the best way to fall asleep, and she might tell you to down a nice glass of warm milk. But if you consult with science, research shows that chamomile might be a better option. That's because it contains an antioxidant called apigenin, which can <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2995283/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">promote sleepiness and reduce insomnia and other sleep problems</a>.</p><p>Two research studies even confirmed the power of chamomile throughout the day and before bed. In one of those studies, postpartum women who drank chamomile for two weeks <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26483209" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">experienced better sleep quality than the control group who didn't</a>. Another research effort measured how fast people could fall asleep. Those results illustrated that participants who consumed 270 milligrams of chamomile extract twice daily for 28 days <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3198755/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">fell asleep 15 minutes faster than the control</a>. The chamomile group also had considerably fewer sleep disruptions. </p><p><strong>May Be Able to Keep Your Gut Healthy</strong></p><p>Though the following studies used rats as the subjects, research shows that chamomile can potentially play a beneficial role in digestive health. According to that research, the anti-inflammatory properties in <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24463157" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">chamomile extract may be able to protect against diarrhea</a>. Additionally, chamomile may be an effective way to <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4177631/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">stop the growth of bacteria in our stomachs that contribute to ulcers</a>.</p><p><strong>Reduces Stress and Anxiety</strong></p><p>Few things are more relaxing than curling up with a good cup of tea, so it's logical that chamomile tea can serve a stress reducer. While it lacks the potency of a pharmaceutical drug, long-term use of chamomile has been shown to <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27912875" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">"significantly" reduce general anxiety disorders</a>. In general, chamomile can act almost like a sedative, and many people enjoy the tea because it puts them in a calm and relaxed state almost immediately. </p><p><strong>Boosts Immune Health</strong></p><p>Vitamin C and zinc are common over-the-counter supplements that people often turn to when they're hoping to avoid becoming sick. While scientists admit that more research must take place to prove chamomile's impact on preventing ailments like the common cold, the existing studies do show promise in this area. </p><p>One study had 14 participants drink five cups of the tea every day for two consecutive weeks. Throughout the study, researchers collected daily urine samples and tested the contents before and after the consumption of the tea. Drinking chamomile resulted in a significant increase in the levels of hippurate and glycine, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2995283/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">both of which are known to increase antibacterial activity</a>. Inhaling steam from a pot of freshly brewed chamomile tea may also ease the symptoms of nasal congestion.</p><p><strong>Minimizes Menstrual Cramps</strong></p><p>This one may come as a surprise, particularly to readers who have tried every possible over-the-counter treatment to reduce period pain. Several research studies have proven that chamomile tea may be able to minimize the pain and cramps that occur during menstruation. Women in that same study also dealt with lower levels of anxiety that they typically felt because of menstrual cramps.</p><p><strong>Help Diabetes and Lower Blood Sugar</strong></p><p>For people with diabetes, regulating blood sugar levels can be a matter of life or death. And while chamomile will never replace prescription-strength drugs, it's believed that it can prevent an increase in blood sugar. A 2008 study on rats showed that chamomile could have a <a href="https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf8014365" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">moderate impact on the long-term risk of diabetes</a>.</p><p><strong>Might Improve Your Skin</strong></p><p>Ever wondered why there's been an influx of chamomile-infused cosmetic products? The reason why so many manufacturers now include chamomile in their lotions, soaps, and creams is because it <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5074766/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">acts as an anti-inflammatory on our skin</a>. That means it may be able to soothe the puffiness that plagues us as we age. Those same anti-inflammatory properties can be vital in restoring skin health after we've received a sunburn. </p><p>Before discarding your used chamomile tea bags, try chilling them and placing them over your eyes. Not only will this help with the puffiness, but it can drastically light the skin color around the eye.</p><p><strong>Help With Heart Health</strong></p><p>Some of the most beneficial antioxidants we put into our bodies are what are known as flavones, and chamomile tea is chock full of them. Flavones have the potential to lower both blood pressure and cholesterol levels, which, when elevated, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4814348/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">can lead to heart disease</a>.</p>
Why Everyone Is Drinking Chamomile Tea<p>Now that you know so much about the wonders of chamomile, it shouldn't come as a surprise why the tea is so popular with people of all ages. In addition to tasting great, chamomile offers up benefits that boost the health of body parts both inside and out. As you ponder your own New Year's resolutions, think about how healthy and natural vitamins, supplements, plants, and oils can help guide you on your own personal path to improvement. Happy New Year!</p>
By Daniel Ross
The 150 mph winds that Hurricane Michael blasted through Tyndall Air Force Base last October left a trail of destruction, ruin and exorbitant financial loss at one of the Department of Defense's (DoD) key military bases. The damage could have been worse. Fifty-five of Tyndall's fleet of F-22 fighter jets had been flown to safety before the hurricane hit. Nevertheless, some of the 17 remaining F-22 jets — their combined worth a reported $5.8 billion — suffered damage, along with roughly 95 percent of the buildings.
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By Alex Kirby
Companies selling products which contain palm oil need to be upfront about where it comes from, so as to relieve consumers of the burden of making sustainable choices, a UK study says.
Researchers from the University of Cambridge say companies should not rely simply on purchasers' own awareness of the need to make environmentally responsible decisions, but should publicly disclose the identities of their palm oil suppliers.
Environmentalists celebrated the move as a victory for rainforests, the climate and endangered species such as orangutans that have lost their habitats due to palm oil production in Indonesia and Malaysia. It also sets a major precedent for other nations.
In an apparent effort to allay serious public and scientific concerns about contamination threats from genetically engineered (GE) trees, on Aug. 3 researchers at Oregon State University claimed they had genetically engineered sterility into poplar trees. The real story of the study, however, is that the risks of genetically engineering trees are too great and can never fully be known.
By Hans Nicholas Jong
The report by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) comes amid mounting debate about the use of palm oil, with the European Union seeking to phase out the use of the ubiquitous commodity in biofuels by 2030, citing environmental and human rights violations in the production of the commodity.
On Friday, the 170+ nations in the International Maritime Organization set the first-ever emissions target for the shipping industry and agreed to halve CO2 emissions by 2050, based on 2008 levels.
By Andy Rowell
As the oil price recovers to over $65 a barrel last year, so do Shell's fortunes, with reported earnings of nearly $16 billion.
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By Edward Barbier and Terry Iverson
This was the final step of a process that began when two U.S. subsidiaries of foreign solar panel makers filed a rarely used kind of trade complaint with the International Trade Commission. Trump largely followed the course of action the independent U.S. agency had recommended to protect domestic manufacturers from unfair competition.
That's a 3 percent jump from 2016 and 7 percent short of the $360 billion record set in 2015.
By Paul Brown
Heating homes and offices without adding to the dangers of climate change is a major challenge for many cities, but re-imagined district heating is now offering an answer.
A district heating scheme is a network of insulated pipes used to deliver heat, in the form of hot water or steam, from where it is generated to wherever it is to be used.