Lead Stories

Voracious Worm Evolves to Eat Biotech Corn Engineered to Kill It
Brandon Keim – Wired
One of agricultural biotechnology’s great success stories may become a cautionary tale of how short-sighted mismanagement can squander the benefits of genetic modification.
After years of predicting it would happen — and after years of having their suggestions largely ignored by companies, farmers and regulators — scientists have documented the rapid evolution of corn rootworms that are resistant to Bt corn.
***JB: Mother Nature is nothing if not tenacious.  Build a better mouse trap and she builds a better mouse.

California May Cut Gasoline Demand 9% by 2020, BNEF Says
Alex Morales – Bloomberg
California may cut gasoline demand by at least 9 percent through 2020 as consumers switch to greener cars and state and federal policies boost efficiency.

Spill Stirs Watchdog to Act
Valerie Bauerlein – The Wall Street Journal
Beneath the surface of the Dan River, which flows along the foothills on the Virginia state line, lie the soggy remnants of a coal-ash spill that is roiling the political landscape in the state and the regulatory environment nationwide.

Kentucky coal-ash dumping tracked by hidden cameras
Renee Lewis – Al Jazeera America
Environmental groups announced their intent to sue a Kentucky coal ash plant for “unabated” dumping into the Ohio River on Monday, after a hidden camera they set up captured alleged illegal discharges of chemicals by the company.
***JB: Maybe they will follow Idaho’s lead and make it illegal to film illegal activity. Speaking of which see next story.

ACLU, Others Sue Idaho over Farm Anti-spying Law
Rebecca Boone – Associated Press (via Ag Web)
 A coalition of animal activists, civil rights groups and media organizations sued Idaho on Monday over a new law that makes it illegal to secretly film animal abuse at agricultural facilities.

Kior Falls After Biofuel Maker Warns of Possible Default
Christopher Martin – Bloomberg
 Kior Inc. (KIOR), the Vinod Khosla-backed operator of the first U.S. commercial-scale cellulosic biofuel plant, fell the most on record after management told regulators they have serious doubts about staying in business.

60% of Pro-Keystone XL Comments Tied to Industry, Group Says
Lisa Song – InsideClimate News
Environmentalists who spent a month analyzing public comments on the Keystone XL linked more than half the pro-pipeline comments they examined to people in the oil industry. As the U.S. State Department considers whether to approve the project, the activists want those remarks to carry less weight than those written by people without a vested interest in the outcome.


Navigating the American Carbon World (NACW) 2014
March 26-28, 2014
San Francisco, California

GLOBE 2014
13th Biennial Conference and Trade Fair on Business and Sustainability
March 26-28, 2014
Vancouver, British Columbia

Solar Summit
Greentech Media’s flagship annual solar conference that focuses on global market trends, relevant technologies and project finance. With sessions on everything from Latin American market dynamics to BOS innovations, Solar Summit attracts high-level decision makers from all areas of the industry.
April 14-16, 2014
Phoenix, Arizona

Minnesota’s Marquee Solar Event
The Midwest Solar Expo is bringing together solar leaders from across the Midwest to advance dialogue on key issues, provide insight on the latest industry trends and best practices, and serve as a nexus between the solar industry and the public.
May 16, 2014
Minneapolis, Minnesota


Earth’s Carbon Dioxide Levels Reach New Heights
Brian Kahn – Climate Central (via The Weather Channel)
Last year, atmospheric carbon dioxide briefly crossed 400 parts per million for the first time in human history. However, it didn’t cross that threshold until mid-May. This year’s first 400 ppm reading came a full two months earlier this past week and the seeming inexorable upward march is likely to race past another milestone next month.

China tells firms to start reporting carbon emissions
Thousands of companies across China must start reporting their greenhouse gas emissions under a government plan to build a nationwide emissions database ahead of launching a national carbon market.

Budget 2014: Carbon tax cut could mean lower energy bills
Households could be spared rises in energy bills, if the chancellor freezes a carbon tax in Wednesday’s Budget, according to consumer groups.
It is being widely predicted that George Osborne may decide to abandon any further increases in the Carbon Price Floor, introduced in April 2013.
Any freeze in the tax could cut as much as £50 from consumer bills by 2020.

Soil carbon map sets baseline
Stock & Land
A NEW map of Australia’s stored soil carbon can provide a touchstone against which future changes in carbon storage or carbon sequestration can be tracked, says the CSIRO.

Natural Gas/Coal

Coal demand has hit rock bottom, study says
Ryan Holeywell – Fuel Fix
Reports of coal’s death are greatly exaggerated, according to a new study from consultants at ICF International.
Much has been made about the possible decline of coal at a time when the United States is awash in cheap natural gas and proposed federal pollution rules are threatening coal.
But ICF projects that 2014 actually will be coal producers’ weakest year, and going forward, demand for the energy source will increase and then plateau.

Natural gas to outpace all energy sources until 2035: report
The Economic Times
Natural gas is expected to be the fastest growing energy source until 2035 as the global energy consumption is likely to grow by an average 1.9 per cent per year, according to a report.
“Between 2012 and 2035, natural gas demand is expected to grow by an average 1.9 per cent per year, outpacing all other energy sources. This is likely to lead to higher natural gas prices, including for LNG. Qatar is the world’s largest exporter of LNG,” the new BP Energy Outlook 2035 report said.

Bill Koch: The U.S. coal industry “has kind of died”
Lindsay Abrams – Salon
William Koch, also known as the other Koch brother, has ditched the business that helped make him his fortune.
“The coal business in the United States has kind of died,” the CEO of energy conglomerate Oxbow Carbon LLC told Energy and Environment News, “so we’re out of the coal business now.”

Bill would allow coal sector to seek incentives
Bruce Schreiner – Kentucky.com
Coal supporters took a first step Tuesday toward fixing what they see as a slight to Kentucky’s hard-hit coal sector.
The House Appropriations and Revenue Committee gave initial approval to a measure that would make the coal industry eligible to apply for some state economic incentives doled out to other businesses.

Keystone Foes Take Aim at Maryland Natural Gas Project
Jim Snyder – Bloomberg
Environmentalists fighting the Keystone XL pipeline are rallying to block a Maryland natural gas export terminal as momentum builds to use the U.S. fuel as a weapon against Russia’s intervention in Ukraine.
***JB: If the US sees such a terminal as a strategic necessity (and given recent world events that seems likely) I doubt the protestors will manage to even slow it down.

Insufficient pipelines boosting price of natural gas, grid operator says
AP (via Morning Sentinel)
A lack of pipelines into New England is making natural gas costlier, pushing up wholesale electricity prices in the region by 55 percent last year, the region’s electric grid operator said Tuesday.

Propane and natural gas industries prepare for next winter
Steve Everly – The Kansas City Star
This winter showed that natural-gas prices can still bite, but not as deep as propane’s price spike.  This winter showed that natural-gas prices can still bite, but not as deep as propane’s price spike.
But what about next winter?
That’s a question being mulled over by the two industries and energy experts. Propane customers saw prices on some days that were at least twice as high as what they paid earlier in the winter. Those prices are now off those highs but still about 50 percent higher than a year ago.


First Solar Seeking Growth to Replace Giant Desert Plants
Christopher Martin  – Bloomberg
The biggest U.S. solar panel maker is preparing to set out its strategy for growth as sales lag for its large-scale power projects in the deserts of the southwest.
First Solar Inc. gets about 65 percent of its revenue from selling giant solar farms to utilities, a market that’s slowing after its best customers bought all the clean energy they need. The manufacturer is missing out on the current boom in rooftop solar, which is surging since SolarCity Corp. (SCTY), backed by billionaire Elon Musk, helped popularize a way to finance home installations.

SolarCity Freezes Energy-Storage Program as Grid Connections Lag
Justin Doom – Bloomberg
SolarCity Corp. (SCTY), the biggest developer of U.S. rooftop solar panels, halted efforts to install and connect systems that include batteries for power storage because California’s utilities are reluctant to link them to the electric grid.

French Police Arrest Greenpeace Activists
Inti Landauro – The Wall Street Journal
Several antinuclear activists from environment group Greenpeace were arrested Tuesday morning after they broke into the Fessenheim nuclear power plant in eastern France and put up a giant banner demanding the closure of nuclear reactors in Europe, the French interior minister’s spokesman said.

Huaneng Renewables Net Surges 59% as Power Output Rises
Huaneng Renewables Corp. (958), China’s second-biggest wind-farm developer, said full-year profit rose 59 percent as its wind power output climbed.


US Groundwater Declines More Widespread Than Commonly Thought
Lakis Polycarpou – State of the Planet
Groundwater levels are dropping across a much wider swath of the United States than is generally discussed, according to a new report from the Columbia Water Center.
In addition to confirming alarming depletion in well-known hot spots such as the Great Plains and Central California, the study identifies a number of other regions, including the lower Mississippi, along the Eastern Seaboard and in the Southeast where water tables are falling just as rapidly.

Congress Just Undid The 1 Good Thing It’s Done On Climate Change
Kate Sheppard – The Huffington Post
Congress approved changes to the federal flood insurance program in June 2012 that lawmakers said then would fix the program’s problems and make it more financially stable. The bipartisan reforms phased out subsidies for high-risk coastal properties, which onlookers concerned about climate change said was key to discouraging unsustainable coastal development. It was perhaps the only good thing on climate that Congress had done in a really long time.
Last week, Congress decided to undo it.

A Water Revolution for the Thirsty West
David Sedlak – The Wall Street Journal
California has been suffering from a crippling drought, but it is hardly alone in its water struggle. Since 2010, rainfall in Texas has declined so markedly that several dozen communities are in danger of running out of water. The Rockies have also been stubbornly dry—reducing the flow of the Colorado River enough to force Las Vegas to invest more than $800 million to build new intake pipes to ensure that water continues to flow into its treatment plant on Lake Mead.

Ignoring Water Risks in India Will Imperil Business: CDP
Natalie Obiko Pearson – Bloomberg
Businesses in India are underestimating water-related risks as depletion and pollution threaten to deprive millions of safe drinking water and stifle economic growth, according to a report published today.

Aqua America Acquires Water, Wastewater Systems in Virginia
Randall Hackley – Bloomberg
Aqua America Inc., the second-largest publicly traded water utility in the U.S., said its Virginia subsidiary acquired four small water systems and a wastewater operation to expand further in the state.


What If? Soda Sequestration
How much CO2 is contained in the world’s stock of bottled fizzy drinks? How much soda would be needed to bring atmospheric CO2 back to preindustrial levels?
***JB: Just for fun.

Amazon Inhales More Carbon than It Emits, NASA Finds
Jet Propulsion Labratory
A new NASA-led study seven years in the making has confirmed that natural forests in the Amazon remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than they emit, therefore reducing global warming. This finding resolves a long-standing debate about a key component of the overall carbon balance of the Amazon basin.

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