In 2006, some residents of Ellensburg, Washington, took a gamble. They ponied up cash to install solar panels in a local park, in return receiving a credit on their electric bill. So far, 85 community members have invested in the project. And it’s about to expand: the park will add wind power and concentrating solar technology (it converts the sun's energy into high-temperature heat that can then generate electricity using a steam turbine or heat engine to drive a generator) with a $600,000 grant from the Energy Department through the Pacific Northwest Smart Grid Demonstration Project. The town, which owns both its electric and gas utilities, may be the exemplar for local, renewable energy in the US.
There is nothing subtle about a male sage grouse trying to pickup a lady. Take one look at his spiky tail feathers erected, yellow eye combs flashing, and olive green air sacs ballooning from his chest and you will know why Meriwether Lewis and William Clark declared him the “cock of the plains.” But to decipher some of the males’ more subtle courtship cues, scientists studying the birds wanted to plant a pair of eyes and ears right in the center of the action. Who better for the job than a robotic girl grouse? Especially one loaded with full surveillance gear—right down to the camera and microphone she keeps tucked in her cleavage. Apparently, the boys are none the wiser. Robo chick—code name Fembot— has them fooled. Watch as these fellas try their best to solicit her affections. Video from the National Science Foundation’s Science Nation.
Peary Caribou © J Nagy/GNWT
Just as Santa is making his list and checking it twice, Dasher and Dancer’s brethren may need a boost from the Endangered Species Act. Populations of peary and dolphin-union caribou, better known as reindeer, are significantly lower than they were just a few decades ago, a result of severe weather events and climate change. To protect the species, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) filed a petition in September asking the Fish and Wildlife Service to list the species under the ESA. The deadline for the government to respond is just in time for Christmas.!--/end tags-->
In and around a small city west of Kansas City, Kansas, a battle between locals and environmentalists rages on over prairie dogs—including the endangered black-footed ferret—their presence in the area, and the pesticides used to eliminate them.
Despite being tarred and feathered by the local press, and hissed at by their neighbors, some people are taking a stand against those who want to kill all prairie dogs.
In the November-December issue of Audubon, Ted Williams recounts his trip to Kansas to see for himself the state of these small, important animals.!--/end tags-->
The Environmental Protection Agency announced yesterday that greenhouse gas emissions like carbon dioxide—primarily a product of burning fossil fuels—are a danger to human health and the environment, a finding that allows the agency to limit the pollutants. Not only is the announcement a positive step toward regulating greenhouse gases, it could also give U.S. delegates and President Obama more leverage in Copenhagen, at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (known informally as COP15). (Look for more blog posts by Aaron Lake Smith on the conference in the next few days.) There, representatives from 192 countries are meeting to negotiate an agreement that will reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the consequences of global warming.!--/end tags-->
It seems the delegates attending the Copenhagen climate talks didn’t learn much from the big three auto execs’ major faux pas last year. Remember when the CEOs of Ford, GM, and Chrysler were verbally tarred and feathered for having the gall to fly to Washington on private jets, hats in hand, to beg for public funds that would keep their companies on life support? The message then: ‘We are hemorrhaging cash. You must help. Pay no attention to the millions we waste on traveling in luxury comfort.’ Now some of the delegates arriving in the Copenhagen are sending a similar statement: ‘Yes, let’s talk about how to save the world from climate change. But never mind the carbon footprints of the private jet and the limousine I rode in on. Besides, what’s another measly couple hundred tons of emissions when the planet is already so far over budget?‘
The situation has caught some local businesses by surprise. One limo company...!--/end tags-->
“I can't understand why there aren't rings of young people blocking bulldozers and preventing them from constructing coal-fired power plants," Al Gore said in 2007. While as far as I can tell Mr. Gore himself hasn’t stared down a bulldozer, other global warming gurus like author Bill McKibben and climatologist James Hansen have been willing to risk arrest to take steps to solve the climate change problem. But, as Mark Engler notes in his article in Yes! magazine, Americans have largely been rather timid when it comes to acts of non-violent civil disobedience in the name of climate change. It looks like that's changing, though.
As the 15th United Nation's Climate Change Conference (COP15) gets underway today in Copenhagen, the world will be expecting reports of heated negotiations, anticipated actions, and possibly some disappointing delays. But both delegates and followers from afar may be surprised to see and hear a lighter side of the meeting, one filled with sculpture, fashion and song.!--/end tags-->
Could a shot help make your steak or hamburger safer? That’s what researchers are aiming to find out in a large-scale test to vaccinate cattle against a dangerous strain of E. coli called O157:H7. Researchers believe E. coli vaccines can slash the number of animals carrying the bacteria by 65 to 75 percent, The New York Times reports. While vaccines won’t wipe out the bacteria, it would reduce the amount of tainted beef. And there’s a definite need to increase safety when it comes to beef. But are vaccines the best way to go?!--/end tags-->
“Yucca Mountain, once chosen as the site for permanent disposal of nuclear waste, is dead.” That came from longtime nuclear power advocate and former senator Pete Dominicci at a speech at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., yesterday. “Leaving Yucca behind means turning to more productive policies.” But what exactly those policies might be remains uncertain.