Obama to Tighten Fuel and Emissions Rules

The new directives follow a previous mandate to set tougher emissions standards for cars and smaller vehicles. Credit: BigstockThe new directives follow a previous mandate to set tougher emissions standards for cars and smaller vehicles. Credit: Bigstock

WASHINGTON, Feb 19 2014 (IPS) - In an effort to reduce oil consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, President Barack Obama on Tuesday directed his administration to develop new fuel efficiency and emissions standards for trucks within the year.

The new directives follow a previous mandate to set tightened emissions standards for cars and smaller vehicles and encompass the president’s next step in trying to address U.S. emissions without needing to go through the U.S. Congress.

Speaking Tuesday, he made a point of touting the successes of his administration’s previous fuel-efficiency standards.

“Our levels of dangerous carbon pollution that contributes to climate change has actually gone down even as our production has gone up,” the president stated. “And one of the reasons why is because we dedicated ourselves to manufacturing new cars and new trucks that go farther on a gallon of gas — and that saves families money, it cuts down harmful pollution, and it creates new advances in American technology.”

Credit: UCS

Credit: UCS

The president did not stipulate any specific fuel efficiency standards that his administration wants to establish. Instead he noted that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Transportation would have until March 2015 to develop a proposal for the newest round of fuel efficiency standards.

The new announcement constitutes the third round of Obama administration fuel efficiency standards, the second of which came into effect only last month.

The EPA and Department of Transportation have already implemented standards for model year 2012 to 2025 passenger vehicles and model year 2014 through 2018 heavy-duty trucks and buses. The latest regulations will be applicable to model years from 2018 and onwards.

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), an advocacy group, anticipates that previously established fuel efficiency standards for trucks made between 2014 and 2018 will reduce oil consumption by 390,000 barrels per day in 2030. They will also cut carbon-dioxide emissions by 270 million metric tonnes.

“Oil is the biggest contributor to climate change emissions in the U.S.,” Don Anair, the research and deputy director of UCS’s Clean Vehicles Programme, told IPS. “The administration already finalised fuel-efficiency standards for cars, which are the biggest consumers of oil, and trucks are second only to those.”

Although trucks, busses and long-haul tractor trailers only comprise seven percent of traffic on U.S. roads, they account for more than 25 percent of oil used on the roads and contribute to about 20 percent of carbon pollution in the transportation sector. In total, motor vehicles emit a third of carbon pollution in the U.S.

“In terms of tackling the climate impacts of transportation, trucks are the next biggest thing, and we’ll have significant oil emission reductions,” Anair said.

UCS also foresees the new standards creating over 40,000 jobs by 2020 and over 70,000 a decade later.

In response to the president’s declaration, the Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association (EMA), a trade association, indicated that it would continue to design more fuel efficient engines and vehicles.

“EMA and its members have a long and successful record of working cooperatively with … regulatory agencies,” said EMA President Jed Mandel. “Our past efforts have resulted in … lower greenhouse gas emissions and improved fuel efficiency from medium and heavy-duty diesel vehicles.”

Some advocates of greater efficiency have suggested that research and development funding could potentially be raised by ending tax breaks on oil companies.

“There is potential for investing those funds in technologies that we know we need for addressing our oil consumption, climate change impacts, and air pollution,” UCS’s Anair said. “Making those investments in the technology of the future rather than continuing to provide tax incentives for established industries makes a lot of sense.”

Indeed, Obama himself has repeatedly called on Congress to end these subsidies.

“We need to get rid of, I think, the 4 billion dollars in subsidies we provide to oil and gas companies every year at a time when they’re earning near-record profits,” the president noted in 2011, “and put that money toward clean energy research, which would really make a big difference.”

Global challenge

As the United States seeks to ameliorate carbon emissions through fuel efficiency standards, the Obama administration is also trying to encourage developing countries to lower their greenhouse gas emissions to ward off climate change.

On a visit to Indonesia on Sunday, Secretary of State John Kerry urged the country to take a more active role in combating greenhouse gas emissions, going so far as to name it as big a security risk as terrorism.

“In a sense, climate change can now be considered another weapon of mass destruction, perhaps even the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction,” Kerry said in Jakarta.

Climate change poses a particularly acute risk to Indonesia, an archipelago composed of more than 17,000 islands, as higher temperatures melt glaciers and ice, causing the sea level to dramatically rise and putting many Pacific islands at risk.

“This city, this country, this region is really on the front lines of climate change,” Kerry said. “It’s not an exaggeration to say to you that your entire way of life that you live and love is at risk.”

- http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/02/obama-tighten-fuel-emissions-rules/

Nile Delta Disappearing Beneath the Sea

By Cam McGrath



Unless barriers are built, a rise in sea level would inundate much of Egypt's Nile Delta. Credit: Cam McGrath/IPS.

Unless barriers are built, a rise in sea level would inundate much of Egypt’s Nile Delta. Credit: Cam McGrath/IPS.

EL RASHID, Egypt , Jan 29 2014 (IPS) - It only takes a light covering of seawater to render land infertile, so Mohamed Saeed keeps a close watch on the sea as it advances year after year towards his two-hectare plot of land. The young farmer, whose clover field lies just 400 metres from Egypt’s northern coast, reckons he has less than a decade before his field – and livelihood – submerges beneath the sea.

But even before that, his crops will wither and die as seawater infiltrates the local aquifer. The process has already begun, he says, clutching a handful of white-caked soil.

“The land has become sick,” says Saeed. “The soil is saline, the irrigation water is saline, and we have to use a lot of fertilisers to grow anything on it.”

Spread over 25,000 kilometres, the densely populated Nile Delta is the breadbasket of Egypt, accounting for two-thirds of the country’s agricultural production and home to 40 million people. Its northern flank, running 240 kilometres from Alexandria to Port Said, is one of the most vulnerable coastlines in the world, facing the triple threat of coastal erosion, saltwater infiltration, and rising sea levels.

According to Khaled Ouda, a geologist at Assiut University, a 30 centimetres rise in sea level would inundate 6,000 square kilometres of the Nile Delta. The flooding would create islands out of an additional 2,000 square kilometres of elevated land, isolating towns, roads, fields, and industrial facilities.

“The total (area of the Delta) expected to be impacted by a rising of the sea level by one metre during this century will be 8,033 square kilometres, which is nearly 33 percent of the total area of the Nile Delta,” Ouda told IPS.

In a report released last September, the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts a sea level rise of 28 to 98 centimetres by 2100, more than twice its 2007 projections. Even by the most conservative estimate, this would destroy 12.5 percent of Egypt’s cultivated areas and displace about eight million people, or nearly 10 percent of the population.

But it is not just rising sea levels that threaten Egypt’s northern coast, the delta itself is sinking.

Prior to the building of the Aswan High Dam in the 1960s, more than 120 million tonnes of silt washed down the Nile each year and accumulated in its delta. Without this annual silt flow to replenish it, the Nile Delta is shrinking – in some places the coastline is receding by as much as 175 metres a year.

The Egyptian government has attempted to slow the sea’s advance by building a series of breakwaters and earthen dykes along the northern coast and its waterways. Piles of concrete blocks help reduce coastal erosion, but without new sedimentation, the delta land has compacted and thousands of hectares now lie at sea level.

“You can build all the walls you want, but it won’t stop the seawater from advancing underground,” says Osman El-Rayis, a chemistry professor at Alexandria University. “The saltwater rots fields from below, killing plant roots and leaving behind salts (as it evaporates) that render the soil infertile.”

El-Rayis warns that as the delta substratum becomes more porous, seawater has begun to infiltrate the Nile Delta aquifer, a vital source of underground water spread over 2.5 million hectares.

Saltwater has always been a threat to coastal agricultural land, but salinity was traditionally kept in check by a steady flow of freshwater covering the soil and flushing out the salt. As Egypt’s population has expanded, upstream demand on water has increased, reducing the amount of Nile water that reaches the Delta. What does trickle in these days is choked with sewage and industrial toxins.

Faced with rising water levels and increased salinity, many farmers have abandoned their land or switched to fish farming. Others have resorted to adding sand or soil to their fields to keep them above the brackish water.

“Soil is very expensive, so many farmers buy a truckload of sand and spread it on their field then plant on top of it,” explains Saeed. “But it is difficult to grow anything on sand, so farmers have to use a lot of fertilisers.”

The sand is drawn from the dunes that line much of Egypt’s northern coast and act as natural barriers against the advancing sea. The plundering of these dunes for construction materials and fill has made the Nile Delta more vulnerable to a rise in sea level.

Scientists have proposed measures to protect the Delta lowlands from the sea’s incursion. They say the priority is to slow beach erosion by preserving natural coastal defences such as sand dunes, while building seawalls along the 240-kilometre coast that are strong enough to hold back the Mediterranean.

“These walls would be built facing the sea in places where low-lying gaps occur along the beach,” says Ouda.

He explains that in order to be effective, the barriers must include an impermeable substructure extending from three to 13 metres below sea level that prevents seawater from infiltrating freshwater aquifers.

The size is as formidable as the expected cost. One proposal submitted by Egyptian engineer Mamdouh Hamza put the price tag at three billion dollars. The plan envisions building concrete wall along the Delta’s entire coastline and skirting it with a plastic diaphragm to prevent saltwater seepage.

Ouda says the mega-project would be cost-effective in that it saves the Nile Delta lands, but it is unlikely to attract the necessary capital. He doubts Egypt’s cash-strapped government could cover the costs, while the international community appears unwilling to offer a lifeline.

“The project to establish the coastal walls is a service project…without economic gain and, thus, you will not find a financier for this project from companies or foreign governments,” Ouda says.

Yet some have argued that as Western nations are most responsible for climate change, their governments should foot the bill on behalf of the developing nations most impacted by its consequences.

- http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/01/nile-delta-disappearing-beneath-sea/


Monsanto’s Dirty Dozen: The 12 Most Awful Products Made By Monsanto Read more: Monsanto’s Dirty Dozen: The 12 Most Awful Products Made By Monsanto

– APRIL 15, 2013

When you take a moment to reflect on the history of product development at Monsanto, what do you find? Here are twelve products that Monsanto has brought to market. See if you can spot the pattern…

#1 – Saccharin

Did you know Monsanto got started because of an artificial sweetener? John Francisco Queeny founded Monsanto Chemical Works in St. Louis, Missouri with the goal of producing saccharin[1] for Coca-Cola. In stark contrast to its sweet beginnings, studies performed during the early 1970s[2],* including a study by the National Cancer Institute in 1980[3], showed that saccharin caused cancer in test rats[4] and mice.

After mounting pressure from consumers, the Calorie Control Council[5], and manufacturers of artificial sweeteners and diet sodas, along with additional studies[6] (several conducted by the sugar and sweetener industry) that reported flaws in the 1970s studies, saccharin was delisted from the NIH’s Carcinogen List. A variety of letters from scientists advised against delisting[7]; the official document includes the following wording[8] to this day: “although it is impossible to absolutely conclude that it poses no threat to human health, sodium saccharin is not reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen under conditions of general usage as an artificial sweetener.” (*Read the Chemical Heritage Foundation’s History of Saccharin[9] here.)

#2 – PCBs

During the early 1920s, Monsanto began expanding their chemical production into polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) to produce coolant fluids for electrical transformers, capacitors, and electric motors. Fifty years later, toxicity tests[10] began reporting serious health effects[11] from PCBs in laboratory rats exposed to the chemical.

After another decade of studies, the truth could no longer be contained: the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a report[12] citing PCBs as the cause of cancer in animals, with additional evidence that they can cause cancer in humans. Additional peer-reviewed health studies showed a causal link between exposure to PCBs and non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, a frequently fatal form of cancer.

In 1979, the United States Congress recognized PCBs as a significant environmental toxin and persistent organic pollutant, and banned its production in the U.S.  By then Monsanto already had manufacturing plants abroad, so they weren’t entirely stopped until the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants banned PCBs globally in 2001.

And that’s when Monsanto’s duplicity was uncovered: internal company memos[13] from 1956 surfaced, proving that Monsanto had known about dangers of PCBs from early on.

In 2003, Monsanto paid out over $600 million to residents of Anniston, Alabama, who experienced severe health problems including liver disease, neurological disorders and cancer[14] after being exposed to PCBs — more than double the payoff that was awarded in the case against Pacific Gas & Electric made famous by the movie “Erin Brockovich.”

And yet the damage persists: nearly 30 years after PCBs have been banned from the U.S., they are still showing up in the blood of pregnant women, as reported in a 2011 study[15] by the University of California San Francisco.

#3 – Polystyrene

In 1941, Monsanto began focusing on plastics and synthetic polystyrene, which is still widely used in food packaging and ranked 5th in the EPA’s 1980s listing of chemicals[16] whose production generates the most total hazardous waste.

#4 – Atom bomb and nuclear weapons

Shortly after acquiring Thomas and Hochwalt Laboratories, Monsanto turned this division into their Central Research Department[17]. Between 1943 to 1945, this department coordinated key production efforts of the Manhattan Project[18]—including plutonium purification and production and, as part of the Manhattan Project’s Dayton Project[19], techniques to refine chemicals used as triggers for atomic weapons (an era of U.S. history that sadly included the deadliest industrial accident[20]).

#5 – DDT

In 1944, Monsanto became one of the first manufacturers of the insecticide DDT to combat malaria-transmitting mosquitoes. Despite decades of Monsanto propaganda insisting that DDT was safe, the true effects of DDT’s toxicity were at last confirmed through outside research and in 1972, DDT was banned throughout the U.S.

#6 – Dioxin

In 1945, Monsanto began promoting the use of chemical pesticides in agriculture with the manufacture of the herbicide 2,4,5-T (one of the precursors to Agent Orange), containing dioxin. Dioxins are a group of chemically-related compounds that since become known as one of the “Dirty Dozen[21]” — persistent environmental pollutants that accumulate in the food chain, mainly in the fatty tissue of animals. In the decades since it was first developed, Monsanto has been accused of covering up or failing to report dioxin contamination in a wide range of its products.

#7 – Agent Orange

During the early 1960s, Monsanto was one of the two primary manufacturers of Agent Orange, an herbicide / defoliant used for chemical warfare during the Vietnam War. Except Monsanto’s formula had dioxin levels many times higher than the Agent Orange produced by Dow Chemicals, the other manufacturer (which is why Monsanto was the key defendant in the lawsuit brought by Vietnam War veterans in the United States).

(Pictured at left, Anh and Trang Nhan, with their father, when they first arrived at the Hoi An Orphanage; below are the same brothers shortly before Trang’s death. Source: Kianh Foundation Newsletter, Dec. 2011[22])

As a result of the use of Agent Orange, Vietnam estimates that over 400,000 people were killed or maimed, 500,000 children were born with birth defects, and up to 1 million people were disabled or suffered from health problems—not to mention the far-reaching impact it had on the health of over 3 million American troops and their offspring.

Internal Monsanto memos show that Monsanto knew of the problems of dioxin contamination of Agent Orange when it sold it to the U.S. government for use in Vietnam. Despite the widespread health impact, Monsanto and Dow were allowed to appeal for and receive financial protection from the U.S. government against veterans seeking compensation for their exposure to Agent Orange.

In 2012, a long 50 years after Agent Orange was deployed, the clean-up effort has finally begun[23]. Yet the legacy of Agent Orange, and successive generations of body deformities[24], will remain in orphanages[25] throughout VietNam for decades to come.

(Think that can’t happen here? Two crops were recently genetically engineered[26] to withstand a weedkiller made with one of the major components of Agent Orange, 2,4-D[27], in order to combat “super weeds” that evolved due to the excessive use of RoundUp.)

8 – Petroleum-Based Fertilizer

In 1955, Monsanto began manufacturing petroleum-based fertilizer after purchasing a major oil refinery. Petroleum-based fertilizers can kill beneficial soil micro-organisms[28], sterilizing the soil and creating a dependence, like an addiction, to the synthetic replacements. Not the best addiction to have, considering the rising cost and dwindling supply of oil…

#9 – RoundUp

During the early 1970s, Monsanto founded their Agricultural Chemicals division with a focus on herbicides, and one herbicide in particular: RoundUp (glyphosate). Because of its ability to eradicate weeds literally overnight, RoundUp was quickly adopted by farmers. Its use increased even more when Monsanto introduced “RoundUp Ready” (glyphosate-resistant) crops, enabling farmers to saturate the entire field with weedkiller without killing the crops.

While glyphosate has been approved by regulatory bodies worldwide and is widely used, concerns about its effects on humans and the environment persist. RoundUp has been found in samples of groundwater[29], as well as soil[30], and even in streams and air[31] throughout the Midwest U.S., and increasingly in food. It has been linked to butterfly[32] mortality, and the proliferation of superweeds[33]. Studies in rats have shown consistently negative health impacts ranging from tumors, altered organ function, and infertility, to cancer and premature death. Reference the above “GMO Risks[34]” page which includes countless references to support these statements.

#10 – Aspartame (NutraSweet / Equal)

An accidental discovery during research on gastrointestinal hormones resulted in a uniquely sweet chemical: aspartame. During the clinical trials conducted on 7 infant monkeys as part of aspartame’s application for FDA approval, 1 monkey died and 5 other monkeys had grand mal seizures—yet somehow aspartame was still approved by the FDA in 1974. In 1985, Monsanto acquired the company responsible for aspartame’s manufacture (G.D. Searle) and began marketing the product as NutraSweet. Twenty years later, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a report listing 94 health issues[35] caused by aspartame.

#11 – Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH)

This genetically modified hormone was developed by Monsanto to be injected into dairy cows to produce more milk. Cows subjected to rBGH suffer excruciating pain due to swollen udders and mastitis[36], and the pus[37] from the resulting infection enters the milk supply[38] requiring the use of additional antibiotics. rBGH milk has been linked to breast cancer[39], colon cancer[40], and prostate cancer[41] in humans.

#12 – Genetically Modified Crops / GMOs

In the early 1990s, Monsanto began gene-splicing corn, cotton, soy, and canola with DNA from a foreign source to achieve one of two traits: an internally-generated pesticide, or an internal resistance to Monsanto’s weedkiller RoundUp. Despite decades of promises that genetically engineered crops would feed the world with more nutrients, drought resistance, or yield, the majority of Monsanto’s profits[42] are from seeds that are engineered to tolerate Monsanto’s RoundUp—an ever-rising, dual income stream as weeds continue to evolve resistance to RoundUp[43].

Most sobering however, is that the world is once again buying into Monsanto’s “safe” claims.

Just like the early days of PCBs, DDT, Agent Orange, Monsanto has successfully fooled the general public and regulatory agencies into believing that RoundUp, and the genetically modified crops that help sell RoundUp, are “safe.”

Except Monsanto has learned a thing or two in the past 100+ years of defending its dirty products: these days, when a new study proving the negative health or environmental impacts of GMOs emerges, Monsanto attacks the study and its scientist(s) by flooding the media with counter claims from “independent” organizations, scientists, industry associations, blogs, sponsored social media, and articles by “private” public relations firms—frequently founded, funded and maintained by Monsanto.

Unfortunately, few of us take the time to trace the members, founders, and relationships of these seemingly valid sources back to their little Monsanto secret.

Fooling the FDA[44] required a slightly different approach: click on the below chart compiled by Millions Against Monsanto[45] to see how many former Monsanto VPs and legal counsel are now holding positions with the FDA. And don’t forget Clarence Thomas, former Monsanto attorney who is now a Supreme Court Justice, ruling in favor of Monsanto in every case brought before him.


A Baker’s Dozen: #13 – Terminator Seeds

In the late 1990s, Monsanto developed the technology to produce sterile grains unable to germinate. These “Terminator Seeds[46]” would force farmers to buy new seeds from Monsanto year after year, rather than save and reuse the seeds from their harvest as they’ve been doing throughout centuries. Fortunately this technology never came to market. Instead, Monsanto chose to require farmers to sign a contract agreeing that they will not save or sell seeds from year to year, which forces them to buy new seeds and preempts the need for a “terminator gene.” Lucky for us… since the terminator seeds were capable of cross-pollination and could have contaminated local non-sterile crops.

What’s the Result of our Monsanto Legacy?

Between 75% to 80% of the processed food[47] you consume every day has GMOs inside, and residues of Monsanto’s RoundUp herbicide outside. But it’s not just processed food—fresh fruit and vegetables are next: genetically engineered sweet corn[48] is already being sold at your local grocer, with apples and a host of other “natural” produce currently in field trials.

How is it that Monsanto is allowed to manipulate our food after such a dark product history? How is it they are allowed to cause such detrimental impact to our environment and our health?

According to the Organic Consumers Association[49], “There is a direct correlation between our genetically engineered food supply and the $2 trillion the U.S. spends annually on medical care, namely an epidemic of diet-related chronic diseases.

Instead of healthy fruits, vegetables, grains, and grass-fed animal products, U.S. factory farms and food processors produce a glut of genetically engineered junk foods that generate heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer—backed by farm subsidies[50]—while organic farmers receive no such subsidies.

Monsanto’s history reflects a consistent pattern of toxic chemicals, lawsuits, and manipulated science. Is this the kind of company we want controlling our world’s food supply?

P.S. Monsanto’s not alone. Other companies in the “Big Six” include Pioneer Hi-Bred International[51] (a subsidiary of DuPont), Syngenta AG[52], Dow Agrosciences[53] (a subsidiary of Dow Chemical, BASF[54] (which is primarily a chemical company that is rapidly expanding their biotechnology division, and Bayer Cropscience[55] (a subsidiary of Bayer).

- http://fracturedparadigm.com/2013/04/15/monsantos-dirty-dozen-the-12-most-awful-products-made-by-monsanto/#axzz2rHBzwsjs

Sign Now To Stop The Pipeline

It just doesn’t add up.

In December, the National Energy Board (NEB) recommended that Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipeline should be approved, claiming the benefits outweigh the risks.

You and I know that’s not the case.

We shouldn’t be surprised with the NEB’s recommendation — after all they have never said “no” to a pipeline — but we should be surprised at how weak the report actually was.

Missing was any serious analysis of the claim that the project is in Canada’s economic interest.

The reality is that Canadian citizens will take on the large-scale risk to our land and our water while multinational corporations and foreign refineries will take on the economic benefits.

But it’s not too late — the Conservatives have 145 days to decide whether they will accept the NEB’s recommendation. That means you still have time:

Take action now — add your name with thousands of other Canadians to tell the Harper Administration that this risky pipeline and tanker scheme is not in your economic or environmental interest.

, Canada needs an economy that works for us — one with forward-thinking resource development that promotes Canadian energy security, climate sanity and creates value-added jobs here at home. An economy which protects and conserves our land and our water from needlessly reckless development.

Enbridge’s risky pipeline just doesn’t make sense: