Saturday, October 26, 2013

Environmental Kuznets Curve

The greatest threat to biodiversity is habitat loss. In particular, let’s talk about forests. According to studies, forests have been growing in countries with a per capita income above $8,000. These studies can be explained by the environmental Kuznets curves.

                                Hypothetical Kuznets Curve

Late pre-industrial and industrial countries like El Salvador, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe, North Korea, and Kenya have chopped trees far faster than the rate at which trees can grow back. None of these countries have per capita incomes above $5,000. These countries favor the marginal utility of consumption over the marginal utility of the environment. Countries like the United States, Denmark, and France all have forest growth and per capita incomes above $8,000. These countries favor the marginal utility of the environment over the marginal utility of consumption. A big factor affecting the environment is that countries switch from being industrial economies to service based economics.
I believe that economic growth benefits biodiversity, but there needs to be more than income growth. A few of the things that must be addressed are environmental taxes, environmental education, and stopping social inequality. If people internalize their external costs, then there would be monetary drawbacks to chopping forests and incentives to planting forests. This allows forests to grow. If people gain an education about the necessity of having a healthy environment, then this allows people to be activists and fight for the environment. As biodiversity is hard to quantify, knowledge is a key ingredient to fighting forest degradation by allowing people to see hidden costs of habitat destruction. Social equality has been very bad in North Korea, Zimbabwe, and Sierra Leone. This restricts the economy and thus propels environmental derogation as citizens make money by any means necessary. At the very least these three factors speed up the process of forest growth making woodland habitats available to contain a plethora of biodiversity.
--Forest Krueger

Friday, October 25, 2013

Gasland & FrackNation

I didn't mean to end a debate as much as start one by exposing people to FrackNation, but it doesn't seem like that's what it's done, so I wanted to encourage you to read a few more articles about the movies. In other words, here's MY version of the essay I asked you to write!

When Gasland first became popular, the gas industry responded by debunking the claims of the movie. Fox responded with more evidence on his claims. A seemingly fair evaluation of the evidence was posted on the NYT website here, mostly validating Fox's claims.

Again, this is not my area of expertise, and I'm not sure where the truth lies. That said...

Floating Windmills

    Although it hasn't been as common this semester, often students like to write about new environmental technology. We've had past posts on everything from technological devices to capture carbon from the air (which I imagine costs significantly more than a tree, which does the same thing) to biotech-based energy solutions such as gas-from-algae. Today the NYT has one I haven't heard of: offshore wind energy from floating windmills. The article does a good job of noting that while of course there are far-flung hopes of salvation for us all, more likely there are going to be unexpected costs and difficulties associated with making these things fully operational. Japan's putting some serious money behind this one, though, so we'll see.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

China's ongoing problems with air pollution

    I decided to look at China’s air pollution issue and how it comes with a heavy price tag for the Chinese. While China has one of the biggest economies as far as growth, they’re paying for it; Vicki Ekstrom says, “Although China has made substantial progress in cleaning up its air pollution, a new MIT study shows that the economic impact from ozone and particulates in its air has increased dramatically. Quantifying costs from lost labor and the increased need for health care, the study finds that this air pollution cost the Chinese economy $112 billion in 2005. That’s compared to $22 billion in such damages in 1975.” Researchers looked at both short term and long term effects on health, and in doing so they found that two main causes for the increase in pollution’s costs are rapid urbanization in addition to the increased number of people exposed to the pollution. Also, higher incomes raised the costs associated with lost productivity. Nam, a researcher, says that pollution led to a $64 billion loss in gross domestic product in 1995.
    China has become the world’s largest emitter of mercury, carbon dioxide and other pollutants. Even after significant improvements over the past 25-30 years, the concentrations were still five times higher than what is considered safe. These high levels of pollution have led to 656,000 premature deaths in China each year from ailments caused by indoor and outdoor air pollution, according to World Health Organization estimates from 2007. China is taking steps to respond to these health and economic concerns. In January, the nation set a target to limit its carbon intensity by 17% by 2015, compared with 2010 levels.
    That article is from February of last year and still today, almost 2 years later China still is dealing with intense air pollution. Today this article was released discussing the continuous air pollution issue in China. Choking smog all but shut down one of northeastern China's largest cities on Monday, forcing schools to suspended classes, snarling traffic and closing the airport, in the country's first major air pollution crisis of the winter.  An air pollution level above 300 is considered hazardous, while the World Health Organization recommends a daily level of no more than 20. Some parts of Harbin, the gritty capital of northeastern Heilongjiang province and home to some 11 million people today, saw a reading of 1,000.
     Visibility was reportedly reduced to 10 meters; the smog is expected to continue for the next 24 hours. Air quality in Chinese cities is of increasing concern to China's stability-obsessed leadership because it plays into popular resentment politically and to the rising inequality in the world's second-largest economy. Domestic media have run stories describing the expensive air purifiers government officials enjoy in their homes and offices, alongside reports of special organic farms so cadres need not risk suffering from recurring food safety scandals. The government has announced plans over the years to tackle the pollution problem but has made little progress.
    The information revealed in both of these articles seems like enough to cause for major concern in China and should inspire the Chinese government and citizens to address this air pollution problem immediately. People are expressing their anger over social media and in another article I read it says some citizens are even starting to protest. This caught my attention because the Chinese people are some of the last people I would expect to publicly show frustration with their government.  China has been dealing with this issues for decades and it isn’t going to be fixed overnight but, one suggestion I have for China’s government is creating incentives or subsidies for companies and/or regions of the country that keep air pollution at a safe level.
--Joseph Fleming

Friday, October 18, 2013

Green vs. Gold in Romania

Over the past two months Romania has been protesting the plans for Europe’s largest planned mining expedition in the town of Rosia Montana. Canada’s Gabriel Resources owns a majority of this corporation that is planning on mining 314 tons of gold and 1500 tons of silver.  Thousands are protesting the mining because the process will include using cyanide and razing four mountains, overall having a huge impact on the environment.  These mines are also full of ancient Roman history that would be 95% destroyed after the mining.
Others are arguing that mining will create jobs for the local people as well as add money into the Romanian economy.  The mining project is estimated to create 3000 jobs and Romania would receive 6% royalty on the gold extracted.
Lawmakers are still in the process of passing this right to mine and are torn between both viewpoints.
My question to you all is what should the Romanian lawmakers decide?  Should they risk the cyanide that will enter the environment as well as destroying four historical mountains or should they lean towards gaining more money in their economy and creating 3000 more jobs?
In my opinion, they should not mine.  It does not seem worth it to Romania.  Not only will they be destroying ancient mines but they will be greatly affecting the environment.  It is said that they will be creating a cyanide lake along with causing tons of pollutants in the air.
--Rebecca Aikman

More on "clean coal"

We have heard a lot this semester about the proposed EPA restrictions on coal plants, and the WSJ (gated link) has an update for us. (See Blackboard for a copy.) A company has invested quite a lot in trying to build a "clean coal" plant in Mississippi. The plant will hopefully soon be completed, but cost overruns have continued to climb- the total cost is now projected at nearly $5 billion, a far cry from the $2.5 billion or so originally projected. Taxpayers will split these cost overruns with shareholders of the company building the plant, leaving them facing surcharges on their power bills and the state of Mississippi with some of the highest priced power for years to come. Then again, they'll be burning a locally available source in a very clean way, so while the total and average costs are high, the marginal costs should be very low. I wonder which is going to be less expensive: off shore wind power or coal gasification?


In some sort of order....

Pork Production Problems- Assessing Externalities
Costs and Benefits of State Parks
Chicken Farming
Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining
Organic Vegetable Production
Forestry and the Chesapeake Bay Watershed
Chemical Fertilizers and the Chesapeake
Natural Gas Extraction
GMO or No

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Shutdown killed the crop report

For the first month since 1866, the USDA crop report will not be issued. I know, I know, you're thinking... who cares about this anyway? I have a strong memory from college of looking through a list of majors and thinking, "'Agricultural Economics?' I have no idea what I want to do as a career, but the one thing I can tell you for sure is that it's not THAT! Could anything possibly be more dull?" I admit, it doesn't sound as sexy as "sustainability" or "six-figure salary upon graduation" but about 20% of our country's land and 1/3 of the water used in the US is used in agriculture, so if you want to know a) how to help the environment, or b) the origin of a lot of big business, look no farther. That's why the government is involved, and it's a real shame when that important work doesn't get done.

Externality of the day: lung cancer

Air pollution has been conclusively linked to lung cancer. I wish I lived in the suburbs... but at least I don't live in Beijing!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Offshore wind power for Maryland

    Earlier this year the Maryland legislature passed a bill to incentivize the construction of an offshore wind farm about 10 nautical miles off the coast of Ocean City. The construction of a wind farm is projected to generate 850 jobs during the building process and 160 long-term positions. Once the farm is built it is predicted that energy bills for Maryland residents will increase by $1.50 monthly. This amount will decrease over time because the fuel from the farm is free. The cost to the community lies in the expensive capital investment needed to build the farm.
    Despite the capital costs, the tradeoff draws dependence away from foreign sources of energy, leading to economic and natural sustainability practices. Maryland plans to draw at least 20% of our energy needs from in-state renewable generation by the year 2022.
    During the time from 1999 to 2009, energy costs to Maryland ratepayers increased approximately twofold. Although offshore wind capital costs are high compared to traditional fossil fuels, the fuel cost is zero, making operational costs competitive. The Maryland Department of Business & Economic Development produced a regional employment model to estimate the total economic impact of offshore wind over the next five years. The analysis stated the impact at $1.3 billion, with $5.6 million in additional state tax revenues. This figure includes direct and indirect effects of the farm.
    This is a profitable opportunity for Maryland. The burden to each ratepayer is negligible compared to the gains derived from an alternative from fossil fuel energy. The placement of the turbines off the coast cuts down on complaints by Maryland residents about noise generated by the farm. However, the distance from the shore also adds the difficulties involved with transporting the energy across the ocean floor. From an economic and environmental standpoint the construction of a wind farm for Maryland is a sound choice.
--Joshua Moore

One problem with quotas

Later in the semester we'll talk about fishing, and a common solution to problems of overfishing is the quota. Joey's post earlier this semester pointed to an article that talked about how quotas imposed in Rhode Island increased safety and made harvesters better off, among other things. They work pretty well until the government gets shut down. Then- not so much....

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Oil Exploitation in the Yasuni National Park, Ecuador: Hard Lessons

President Correa is coming under fire from many people by deciding to have foreign companies come in to drill for oil in the Yasuni National Park.  Much of the concern over this is amplified by the history of drilling for oil in the country by Texaco (which merged with Chevron in 2001), which did not use generally accepted practices that might have prevented the vast majority of damage that was done. Rather than following established procedure for control and disposal of wastes, the company often merely dumped them into an unprotected hole in the ground – which allowed the chemicals to seep into the local water table – or even pumped them directly into nearby rivers.
Standard practices that have been well established for decades allow for the extraction of oil while preventing the resulting waste products from leaking into the surrounding environment, and in many countries regulations are in place that require oil companies to use acceptable practices to prevent any negative impacts like those seen in Ecuador. Unfortunately, these requirements were not enforced in the past, and still even the state owned oil company Petroamazonas admits a spill occurs about every week (2013).  The country has also been unable to hold Chevron accountable for their brand’s past activities; the suit had been settled in Ecuador but is now in court here in the US.
It seems that, while terrible situations have been created in the past, it is not very difficult to extract the oil with minimal impact on the local environment.  However, to ensure that similar things don’t happen in the future people involved need to take precautions to ensure they don’t repeat or past mistakes.  Several things they need to do are: closely monitor the activities of the gas companies, make certain that the companies legally accept responsibility for any negative effects of their activities, and ensure support for any necessary corrective action by the foreign governments where the oil companies are based.
If these procedures had been followed before, the majority of problems could have been avoided or at least dealt with quickly once discovered.  And if they are now adopted, they may be used to allow further oil exploration without the vast majority of negative effects that Ecuador has experienced in the past.
--Stephen Anderson

Robots to the rescue

The main difference between renewable sources like solar power and non-renewables like natural gas continues to be cost. If solar is price competitive people will buy it. One way to get there would be to tax carbon emissions, but that doesn't seem to be happening. Another way to get there is to improve the technology behind solar, and people have been working on that for decades. Recently, though, that research has taken a new direction. Instead of improving the technical efficiency of each panel, some firms are developing robots to reduce the cost of setting up a solar power plant and others to be sure that panels are kept as clean as possible to maximize exposure to the sun. Hey, whatever works!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Solutions, not just problems

Most people think about negative aspects and problems when faced with the task of looking at current events. While raising awareness is good and it is important for us to identify what is wrong, sometimes we forget about the practical solutions to these problems and get caught up thinking there is little we can do. I think it is important to remember that in order to help create positive change on our planet, we need to both be aware of the problem and its possible solutions so we can change how we live our daily lives. That is why I researched two organizations that are moving in what I believe to be is a positive direction in making our world a better place.
The first of these organizations is Earthship biotecture. Earthships are a concept created by Michael Reynolds, an expert in sustainable living. He calls his creation the “epitome of sustainable design and construction.” An earthship is a passive solar house that is built into the earth and made out of natural and recycled materials. The walls are made of tires and recycled bottles and cans, and are designed in such a way that heat from the sun is stored so that the house can maintain a homeostasis much like the earth does with thermo mass. Water is collected via precipitation and filtered/ treated before used for practical purposes, including watering the indoor vegetable garden. The house is run on electricity that is harvested from the sun and the wind. It is designed to be as eco-friendly and independent as possible, costing about roughly the same as a conventional home. The only difference is that you would no longer have to pay for utility bills such as heating and electricity. The organization also has much cheaper and simpler models for mass production to be applied to third world countries and basically anyone in need.
The second organization researched was the New Earth Project. The project is a global sovereignty movement that takes the solution to societies problems to the extreme. They basically want to restart civilization and implement new communities, institutes, and retreats in various locations around the world to promote a healthier future for humanity that is more aligned with nature. Their manifesto is: “health sovereignty, regeneration of environment, primacy of peace, justice & liberty, protection of indigenous and cultural wisdom, harmonization of global commerce with sustainability, elimination of all threats posed by wmd & nuclear weapons, the cultivation and appreciation of all spiritual & cultural values, the establishment of ethical and accountable governance worldwide, the advancement of our education & new modalities for learning, furtherance of all individual freedoms, rights & responsibilities, elevation of beauty, artistic expression and human creativity, the restoration of honest and open debate in our media, the safe-harbouring of breakthrough medical cures, protection of technological advancements, the promulgation of free energy, economic reform."
I personally think both of these concepts are exactly what we as a collective whole need to start looking towards if we want continue to live harmoniously on this planet. With our population growing exponentially and our resources being drained more and more, it is vital for us to slow down our consumption and to live a more healthy and sustainable lifestyle.
--Kyle Espenshade

[Editor's note: also check out Kyle's music here.]

The (dubbed) War on Coal

     The Obama administration has just recently imposed strict regulations for all new coal fired power plants.  It is a clear effort by the administration to allay the United States’ dependence on coal which provides 40% of the country’s electricity. Coal is unquestionably the dirtiest of the fossil fuels, however it is ubiquitous and cheap which explains the country’s protracted dependence on it. Many believe this move is essentially a “war on coal” because it creates an 1100 pound limit per megawatt hour on carbon whereas some of the more advanced current plants emit about 1800 pounds per megawatt hour (Associated Press). New plants would be required to install carbon capture and storage technologies to fulfill the requirement which can cost billions of dollars. There are only two current models that exhibit such technology,-which are still in construction-one in Kemper County, Mississippi and Saskatchewan, Canada (Associated Press). Opposing parties believe this hindrance is technologically infeasible given that the coal plants have yet to be showcased. The EPA has stated that the impact of the regulations will be negligible since the price of natural gas (a substitute) remains low; however there are plans to promulgate these regulations for all existing coal plants by the end of the year which would engender a starkly differently result.
     If this legislation does end up passing then I believe coal production will begin a gradual decline.  I think it is evident that this is the Obama administrations way of subsidizing renewable and less carbon intensive sources of energy. Any legislation regarding the environment is particularly difficult to promulgate because it is such a polarizing issue. It seems to be a short term versus long term debate, right wing versus left wing respectively. In the short term a negligent amount of jobs will be lost but in the long run it is a prudent move to build a renewable energy sector that will boast many more jobs than lost.
--Tyler Bailey

Government shutdown and agriculture

Check me out: I'm all next generation media on y'all today. Here's a video clip talking about what the government shutdown means for farmers. Hint: there's a lot less harvesting going on....

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

No more oil shocks?

***First article for second set of material.***

Today in class Forest talked about how oil futures were high right now. Well, that may have been true earlier, but as this article puts it, "the bearish overall outlook for crude prevail(s)."

That analysis is the short-term version of the long-term trend described in today's NYT article on oil, which contends that, "It is likely that the world has already entered a period of relatively predictable crude prices." It says that increased supply from the US, Canada, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia, driven by application of the technology developed to frack natural gas is keeping up with difficulties posed by decreased access to the products of other countries such as Iran and Libya. Demand is tempered by increased efficiency in use, by mandates to increase use of biofuels, and by changes in society such as the ability to order things online. When one vehicle is delivering everyone's packages, that's a lot fewer car trips to the store!

Meanwhile China has accounted for more than half of the global demand growth over the past five years. This year China is expected to pass the US as the largest importer of oil, and it's expected to stay there for a long time. However, the government there is restricting that growth, so while use will continue, the growth rate is expected to slow. Also, increasingly cheap access to natural gas is inspiring investment in how to have that product fill the niche of petroleum. It's been a quick fix to update heating systems, and more and more cars are running on it.

All in all, a very economic story! We'll talk more about it in class.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

European Union Approves Backloading Plan to Improve Emissions Trading System

    On July 3, 2013, the European Parliament approved a measure that would help rescue the emissions trading system. In 2005, the emissions trading system was designed to reduce carbon pollution by 2.8 billion tons by 2020. The system sold permits to companies that would allow them to produce greenhouse gases. Every year a cap of pollution would be set that companies could produce. Every year the cap got smaller and permits became more expensive so that companies would be influenced to switch to green technologies and reduce pollution waste.
    Since the beginning of this system, the worldwide economy faced recessions. Due to the economic downturn, the European Union became generous to companies and oversupplied the market with 2 billion permits. With an increase in supply the tax for pollution went down to about 2.5 Euros. The European Union initially estimated that a tax of 30 Euros per ton of carbon was needed to influence companies to switch to green technologies. In July, the European Parliament adopted a measure called “backloading” that would decrease the supply of permits by 900,000,000. With a decrease in supply the price of the tax should go up. The market reacted immediately following the decision. The market tax for pollution rose to about 5 Euros. There is still about 1 billion surplus in the market.
    I believe the positive to this system is that companies are producing less pollution. The impact would be greatly felt unless the extra 1 billion permits are also withheld from the market. A 5 Euro tax on pollution does not give enough incentive for companies to switch to green technologies. This system could have more negative effects. With increase in the tax, companies have to reallocate funds and invest in more physical capital. Unemployment might rise because companies don’t have money to pay employees. Some of these companies also might be able to sustain themselves because the tax is too high forcing them to shut down. More aggressive measures are needed in order to rescue the European emissions trading system.
--Nieco Magtanong

Coal miners suffer as natural gas increases

          The U.S. has overtaken Russian as the number one producer of oil and natural gas. According to the Wall Street Journal (see Blackboard for the article), the U.S. produces 22 million barrels a day; and that is 200,000 more barrels than Russia. The increase in the production of natural gas has had a detrimental impact on coal country.  For more than a century, Hanlan County, Kentucky has been dependent on the coal industry for employment, fuel and the means to support their quality of life. Unemployment has risen from 9.8% to 17.2 % in the past two years. Forty-two percent of coal miners in eastern Kentucky have lost their jobs. The Duncan family is only one example of the many casualties of the trend away from coal mining towards natural gas production. Scott Duncan worked in mining for 18 years. He once earned $80,000 per year. Unfortunately, he, his wife and three teenage children now use food stamps to supplement their food costs. The C.V. Bennett family owns one of the only mines still operating in Harlan County. Today, the C.V. Bennett family has only 100 employees. 400 less employees than what it had five years ago. It is no doubt, that the boom of natural gas production and new federal limits on greenhouse gases has led to the economic downturn for eastern Kentucky’s coal miners.
          The production of natural gas is positive for the environment and the economy in the long-term, but the loss of mining jobs in the short-term is still devastating. New technology often leaves many workers displaced and their quality of life drastically reduced, due to the lack of skill for the new developing technology among the old workers of its rival industry. The coal mining industry is a huge part of American history and it has been a viable industry for many generations. New federal limits on greenhouse gases have further crippled the coal mining industry as it increases the cost of production. A possible solution to the economic downturn of the coal industry would be to increase export volumes, reduce costs, diversify resources and invest in new technology that will make the process of mining more environmentally friendly. Yet while many others lag behind government environmental mandates, others have adapted and mastered the requirements and means for survival in the coal industry. Queensland Coal Industry in Australia has stayed ahead of the economic downturn for the coal industry by implementing many of these same strategies listed above. Thus, it is possible for emissions to be reduced, while viably remaining a competitor with natural gas production, but at what cost, and will each company be able or willing to make the necessary changes?
--Fredrick Jones

Monday, October 7, 2013

Leaden externality

Although lead acid batteries don’t often come up in conversation, these items are fundamental to a commuting lifestyle and play a role in the day to day life of almost every American family. The disposal and recycling of these types of batteries is the topic of an important debate. As many as 4.5 billion pounds of lead acid batteries are exported by America every year, with a large number headed to Canada or Mexico. The job of handling these batteries pays well but comes with extreme health risks. Recently the CEO of RSR Corp., David Finn wrote a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency calling for the ban of these exports. Government regulations in Canada and Mexico as far as dealing with the waste are far less strict than they are in America. Particularly in Mexico, entire communities are suffering from higher levels of lead in drain water and soil. These people are dealing with the costs of a process in which they have no benefit. Recycling plants in the United States are better funded and more closely watched, but as recently as last spring an Exide plant in Vernon, California was closed after a high levels of lead were found in the surrounding soil.
It is the responsibility of the companies that produce these batteries to see that they are recycled and disposed of correctly. A full on ban of exports isn’t necessary, but the EPA should find a way to hold companies accountable for hiring cheap smelters outside the country. Keeping in mind that even recycling plants held by the bounds of the Federal government can’t get it right tells us that these companies are more focused on production than the environmental hazards. If there were more of an incentive and accountability for American companies to be more conscious of the health of the workers, the community and the planet, this problem could be fixed.
--Steven Brand

Sunday, October 6, 2013

New data on fracking

As we prepare to move into the energy unit, it's nice to have a little help from Joe Nocera, who is touting some new research into fracking. Hydraulic fracking is a means of extracting natural gas from shale formations, which are all over the US. Natural gas contributes less to climate change than does, say, burning coal, but one reason that people have been skeptical is that the apparatus used in fracking doesn't capture all of the gas that is released by the frack. When methane escapes into the atmosphere, it is about 20 times more damaging than the CO2 that is the most commonly cited pollutant. Thus, the amount of methane released by the apparatus is quite important: if the amount is small, then natural gas is much better than coal, but if the amount is large, fracking may be just as bad as coal. Nocera's investigation isn't done, but it sounds like technology can make things significantly better in this case. That's good news for people who would rather get their energy domestically rather than sending our billions to Iraq.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Energy Department's Loan Program Revival

The Energy Department’s loan program has been used in the past to fund the development of green energy technologies. The Obama administration has recently decided to renew this program. This program does not have to go through Congressional approval, though it is thought by many to be controversial because the program has failed in the past. Under this loan program “Hundreds of millions” of taxpayer dollars have been lost due to the failure of start-up companies such as Solyndra, but many others have been successful. Under the loan program the Tesla Motor company has already made an “early repayment of $465 million.” Despite the controversies associated with the loan program, officials from the Energy Department describe that this program can help bring new green technologies into the market that previously would not have been able to enter. The loan program takes risks using taxpayer money to invest in start-up companies, but it can result in the development of new green technologies that decrease the negative impact we have on the environment.
I think that reviving the Energy Department’s loan program is a smart choice. I think it is a good idea to promote the development of clean energy technologies. As the article stated, many new technologies may be available but are not being comercially developed due to lack of initial investors. This program gives companies a chance to make something new and potentially beneficial. I think this is a step in the right direction because there is currently very little being done to change our energy consumption habits. I also think this loan program is a smart decision based on the Obama administration’s recent carbon pollution stance. Since the pending standards will not allow new coal companies to open unless they are using cleaner methods, this loan program can help fund cleaner coal technology that could help the coal companies survive. The program has been very successful in the past despite some setbacks. I think they will be able to learn from the mistakes of failed companies such as Solyndra and be able to make smart investment choices in the future. Changes need to be made now to prevent further disruption of the environment and I think that funding start-up companies and giving them the chance to create new technologies is one of the only realistic options we have right now.
--Marielle Langston

Fishes Killed In China due to Ammonia

   Thousands of fish across a 19-mile range on the river of Hubei Province in central China were killed due to pollutants emitted from a local plant. When officials took tests of the water upstream from the Fu River they encountered high levels of ammonia, which is typically used in many fertilizing agents. Officials say that the concentrations they found in the water of ammonia was 196 milligrams per liter, which are extremely high from the 12 milligrams usually found in concentrations of water and about .02 mg in drinking water.  According to the news Hubei Shuanghuan Science and Technology Company was the one to blame for this disaster, which specialized in producing sodium carbonate and ammonium chloride and was ordered to cease production until investigators found the cause for the leak. The company has had four violations already as of 2008 says Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, which tracks air and water pollution. Mr. Jun says that the authorities take little action against the company and fine them, way too little which is why incidents keep repeating themselves and causing environmental harm. The odd smell in the atmosphere caught many peoples attention on what was going on. 110 tons of fish have died due to this incident. Unfortunately the water was not used as drinking for the communities surrounded by the river but people panicked and bought bottled water because they thought they were drinking contaminated water. Pollution is always a concern in developed countries but luckily the contaminated water in the Fu River didn’t get into the Yangtze, which is China’s longest river and the source of drinking water for millions.
I think that if the company has already had violations against them they should be enforced strictly so incidents in the future don’t occur due to negligence. I believe local fisherman that make a living off selling fish have been impacted severely because of so many fish have died and no one is willing to buy them and the future might not look so sharp either because of the scare. Another problem is that the ammonia levels are so high in the water you don’t know when they might decrease and for what period of time will the fish in the water be safe to eat again. I do believe that all these disasters that have been happening in coastal waters will eventually lead to aquaculture where fish are grown in controlled environment because the numbers are dramatically dropping. Water companies seem to benefit form these kinds of disasters because they see an increase in the demand for water but clean water regardless should freely available to the community in such incidents. The Yangtze was saved from the ammonia, which is a great thing because most of the drinking water in the region comes from there. Official do worry that the Yangtze might one day be affected by pollution because so many occurrences keep happening that can be avoided if companies take proper precautions.
--Daman Singh

New scheme to save the crabs?

            Crab harvest in Maryland is a large source of income to Marylanders and the surrounding population of the Chesapeake Bay. However, recently crab harvesting pressure and shoreline development have caused a decrease in crab abundance. On The Sun website, it explains that the management of crab harvesting has not turned out to be anywhere near a success. The plan to revamp the management of crab harvesting is currently being discussed between the state and the watermen. The state is planning on setting allocations on the amount of crabs harvested in a year by each harvester. The system of setting limits worked well in Rhode Island as detailed by a commercial fisherman in The Sun paper.  Fisherman reported that they had an increase in revenue and less danger having to work in bad weather conditions. The state believes that crab harvest limitations and more sustainable practices will help stabilize the fishery.
            Crabbing has been a nightmare for a majority of the bay recently. There are ups and downs. I know this because I am commercial crabber and fisherman. The decline of crabs this year made it nearly impossible to make any profit. Crabbers were running over 500 pots, and they were only getting around 2-5 bushels. I have heard reports all around the bay that this year has shown to be one of the worst crabbing seasons in history. Being a waterman is not always easy, but I believe that if there are limits set for commercial fisherman then we should see an increase in the abundance of legal sized crabs. A few years ago we were able to catch unlimited female crabs and they finally set a limit. Currently, over crabbing in general is an issue. The recent crab decrease has been caused by over crabbing, dredging for sponge crabs, and pollution. The plan to set crab limits on upcoming seasons will slowly take time and I believe it will help.
--Joey Gukanovich