November 12, 2008

61 Trees per Person?!


A scientist from NASA estimated that the global tree-to-person ratio is about 61 trees per person. The scientist first thought this was great news, but then she started to think about the multitude of things that include products from trees. And, with the deforestation rate as it is, there is much evidence that humanity is overconsuming our supply of trees. But don't worry! Unlike oil, trees are renewable. Check out this article! Plant some trees!

Click the link to read the article and/or listen to the 5 minute broadcast on NPR:

May 1, 2008


April 29, 2008

Beijing Olympics: Go for It

Opinions about the air quality in Beijing for the coming summer Olympic Games continue to be mixed. According to Olympic chief Jacques Rogge, air pollution in Beijing may be an issue for athletes’ health during the Games. In addition, the pollution problem will be exacerbated by weather conditions. If the weather is uncooperative, it may be necessary to postpone long outdoor events. However, Irne Ljungqvist, the IOC’s medical commission chairman, stated in relation to air quality that “conditions will be good, although not necessarily ideal.? During test events in Beijing last summer, air quality was monitored. In the course of these events, no health problems were reported and the health of the athletes was not impaired.

While some athletes are deciding not to compete in Beijing, such as Haile Gebrselassie and Justine Henin, who both suffer from asthma, others feel that there is nothing to worry about. Paula Radcliffe, a marathon runner, is more concerned about the heat and humidity than the air pollution. She also believes that the Beijing games will be cleaner than the Athens games were. There were similar concerns about air quality leading up to the Athens games, including athletes being worried about competing in the longer outdoor events. Also, factories in Athens closed down during the Games to reduce pollution. Asthma was an issue at those Games as well. And asthma concerns are not being ignored this time, either. For example, the Australian Olympic Committee is screening some athletes for asthma to help plan for preventative measures.

Beijing continues to plan to take actions to reduce emissions during the Olympic games. 19 heavy polluting industries will be required to cut their emissions by 30 percent. All digging and concrete pouring on construction sites will stop in mid-July. Also, a public smoking ban will go into effect. Beijing is making an effort to provide a good environment for the Olympic Games, and while some athletes remain concerned about the air condition, some are also ready to get out there and go for the gold.

April 28, 2008

Inefficiencies at UMD cont.

Recently we were on a class field trip to the heating plant at UMD which provides steam 24/7 for use in most campus buildings. We felt it might be worth informing our fellow Ecoblogers what we learned. They currently have three boilers which burn primarily natural gas but are capable of burning a variety of fuel oils. The university prefers the use of natural gas because it burns cleaner than fuel oils. The as an additional effort to reduce air pollution the burners are designed to create low amounts of NOx. The plant has an operator on site around the clock that makes sure steam needs are met and nothing goes wrong at the plant. There is a constant computer monitoring system that keeps track of all relevant flow streams and their components. While this system is working out well for the university and efficiency is pretty good we have learned that for the Chester Park School remodeling project it is actually more efficient and cost effective to install a few small boilers at that building than running a new steam line to that building. So it is good to know that the university is taking steps to reduce the amount of air pollution the campus creates.

Continue reading "Inefficiencies at UMD cont." »

Carbon Sequestration is Short Term Fix

Carbon Sequestration refers to the provision of long term carbon storage underground, beneath the sea, or used in enhanced oil recovery applications. By injecting C02 into the sea or earth it allows a quick solution to the problem at hand. A major area of concern is the topic of leakage. Injections into oil wells, aquifers, etc in the earth have a 99% retention probability. The ocean, at depths of over 2000 meters have a retention probability of 85%. Carbon Capture Technologies are expensive (up to $50/ton carbon captured) and add a burden to power plants who supply electricity to consumers. This burden is shifted to consumers. It is this reason (along with inefficiency reasons) why CCS technologies are not being seriously considered. However, global warming will continue to increase and thus carbon capture technologies need to be implemented. With omission levels of 7000 Tg of C02 being omiited each year by the US we need a short term fix. The government needs to issue grants, subsidies, and taxes to lift this burden from the power plants. Also a cap and trade system could be implemented starting with the current omissions and gradually declining. We also need to think about the energy we use in every day life. Decisions need to be made by people to reduce the energy we currently use. This will be the hardest step. Legislation will likely be required.

China's Environmental Laws

Before the Deng era (1978 - 1990), China was a nation governed by the decrees of people, not the order of any law; China had no law to speak of and the laws it did have were not available to the public. The primary purpose of China’s legal reform was to support its expansion and economic restructuring in order to attract foreign investment and develop a market economy with a more stable, legal infrastructure. This legal reform has included the creation of a large body of environmental laws.

The first major environmental enactment, the Environmental Protection Law for Trial Implementation was implemented in 1979. Then in 1982, The People’s Republic of China Constitution embodied a number of important environmental provisions including the State's duty to conserve natural resources and wildlife. From these two enactments a number of other laws soon followed suit including: the Air Pollution Prevention and Control Law (1987) and the Energy Conservation Law (1997).

How effective have China’s environmental laws been throughout the Deng era and beyond? To date, China's environmental law regime has suffered from the same weaknesses as Chinese laws, in general: weak institutions and infrastructure, vague statutory language, and most notably, poor enforcement. The lack of environmental enforcement can be attributed to a number of factors, but falls largely in the hands of local officials. These local officials are often poorly trained, ill-equipped, unmotivated to enforce regulations, and often have an economic stake in the companies they are supposed to be regulating. Furthermore, there is no instrument for organizations or private citizens to seek enforcement of these environmental laws.

The environment in China is in need of help and the longer the government waits the more costly it will be to repair the damage. In addition, as China becomes more and more integrated into the global society, it damages its global status if it cannot address environmental matters in a progressive way.

If you have any feedback on anything we have posted come to the presentation.

April 26, 2008



April 25, 2008

Methyl-Mercury Poisoning


How does Mercury pollution affect me?

Ingestion of methyl-mercury, usually through larger fish
Unborn babies and infants are especially susceptible

Damage to brain and central nervous system
Impaired vision, hearing and speech
Lack of coordination
Skin discoloration and peeling
Profuse sweating
High blood pressure
Loss of hair, teeth, and nails
Kidney disfunction

North-Eastern Minnesota Specific Issues:
The lakes in the northeast are naturally less productive and are more acidic due to extensive wetlands in the watersheds.
These characteristics, along with the amount of exposed bedrock and other contributing factors, allow mercury to enter the food web at a faster pace.
Arrowhead Region walleye contain 0.6 parts per million (ppm) of methylmercury versus 0.4 ppm in a 16-inch walleye from lakes elsewhere in the state.
Minnesota is one of 11 states to have a mercury advisory.

April 24, 2008

Inefficiencies at UMD Invite


Continue reading "Inefficiencies at UMD Invite" »

Mercury Presentation Announcement


April 20, 2008

Stop in the Name of Ozone

Good questions Steve!
While many countries have made progress in phasing out chlorofluorocarbon use for large volume users, less progress has been made with small volume users. In particular, reduction in the use of ozone-depleting car air conditioners and refrigerators is difficult in many countries where these capital goods are used for many years and represent a sizable investment for many consumers. It has been estimated that the cost of converting a CFC-12 car air conditioner to an approved refrigerant is between $100 and $800. Conversely, recharging an old air conditioner that uses CFC-12 costs about $280

In advance of the complete banning of production of CFC-12, dichlorodifluoromethane, an excise tax was placed on it to encourage the transition to alternative refrigerants. Producers of CFCs were also required to cut production amounts. Less developed countries were given an extended period of time to conform to international standards, in order to ease these nations into the new standards, avoiding any adverse effects to their fragile economies. The intent was to be fair to countries with less advanced technology by giving them more adjustment time in order to help reach the common goal of protecting the world from environmental dangers. However, this has backfired because these countries are now profiting from the illegal smuggling of the CFCs they are still allowed to produce.

The illegal shipment of CFCs is viewed as a serious and growing problem. At the Fourth International Conference on Environmental Compliance and Enforcement, a US participant noted that smuggling of CFCs was viewed as the second most lucrative criminal smuggling operation after illegal drugs. A large black market for illegally imported CFCs developed. It is estimated that as much as 20 million pounds per year CFCs are smuggled into the United States using a number of different methods. Sometimes the containers are falsely labeled as another similar chemical, claimed as recycled CFC, or hidden among a larger shipment of legal chemicals.

There are many possible substitutes to CFC-12. In the US, two common substitutes are HFC-134a and HCFC-141b. However, these replacements also have their drawbacks. HCFC-134a is a hydrofluorocarbon that contributes to global warming. HCFC-141b is a hydrochlorofluorocarbon that still depletes the ozone layer, but at a much slower rate.

We realize that you might still have some questions, but instead of posting them here, save them for our presentation, Monday, April 21!

April 18, 2008

Stratospheric Ozone and Its Depletion


April 6, 2008

Mercury Removal by Activated Carbon Injection

• Yes, Simon, PRB refers to Powder River Basin coal. The Powder River Basin is an area in southeast Montana and northeast Wyoming known for its rich coal deposits. Mines in this area supply around 40% of the coal fired power plants in the U.S. It is known for its low sulfur and ash content, but it also has a low chlorine content which leads to more of the mercury being emitted in the elemental form. The elemental form is harder to capture which is why the activated carbon used for adsorption is commonly treated with a halogen.

• The table below shows how much carbon is typically needed for different removal efficiencies.
Target Hg Removal Efficiency(%)--------Predicted Injection Concentration(lbs/MMacf)------Predicted Injection Ratea(lbs/h)
a. Injection rate based on nominal flow at full load of 500, 000 acfm.

• The activated carbon mercury removal technology has been implemented at a number of sites where variable testing has been done. These include but are not limited to PG & E National Energy Group sites in Salem Harbor, MA and Braton Point, MA, Wisconsin Electric in Pleasant Prairie, WI, Alabama Power in Glaston, AL, and also Ontario Power Generation. Presque Isle Power Plant in Marquette, MI is projected to be the first to implement this technology on a full scale in 2009.

• The mercury emitted in the taconite process comes mainly from stack gases. It is important to note that the taconite mercury emissions are mostly a regional problem. In Northeast MN, taconite processing is a sufficiently large industry that it is one of the biggest emitters of mercury in the state of Minnesota and to the Lake Superior Basin. However, it is not so large as to significantly impact national and international mercury atmospheric budgets.

• Carbon injection as a sorbent normally occurs after the main particulate collection has already occurred. Studies have shown that this increases efficiency of mercury removal. Below is a schematic which illustrates particulates being collected by an electrostatic precipitator, after which a baghouse collects the mercury adsorbed onto the injected carbon.


April 4, 2008

China's Five Year Plans in Review

China has implemented several Five Year Plans (FYP) since 1953, and is currently within the 11th period (2006-2010). The following is a list of the near term objectives for the 11th period.

(1) To put in place a national (Science and Technology) S&T policy framework and coordination mechanism in response to climate change and to further improve the capacity of integrating S&T resources;
(2) To achieve internationally recognized research findings in key climate change areas;
(3) To develop and improve Chinese prediction, analysis, assessment and decision-making models on climate change;
(4) To advance research on key technologies for climate change mitigation and to launch pilot projects at local level and in industrial sectors;
(5) To make breakthroughs in the studies on the impacts of climate change on agriculture, water resources, costal areas, forestry, fishery, bio-diversity, desertification and human health and to implement demonstration projects on adaptation in typical vulnerable areas;
(6) To formulate the National Adaptation Strategy on Climate Change;
(7) To make China’s contributions to the design of international climate change regime;
(8) To build up highly professional research teams as well as research bases on climate change.

Over the past 55 years, China has achieved improvements in ambient air quality (e.g. lowering the concentration of SO2) and in decoupling emissions of SO2, NO2 and CO2 from economic growth. The emission reduction set out in the 9th FYP for SO2 and particulate were met and surpassed. It is also believed that they also met their 10th FYP but final statistics aren’t out yet. China has made some significant accomplishments along the way. A major accomplishment is that they reduced their dependence on coal from 63% to 30% over a 14-year period. They have also made major strides in the transportation department. In 2004 China put fuel-efficiency laws into effect that are similar to the European standards. Along with putting fuel-efficiency standards in place, China’s public transportation system has greatly improved. They have put a lot of work into adding new bus routes to major cities.

Even though China has made large strides in order to clean up their air, the large cities in China still have some of the largest air pollution problems in the world. One of China’s big problems is SO2 emissions, which dropped from 1990 to 2002 but now are on the rise again. Other problems include an increase of acid rain along with insufficient to reduce VOCs. Overall, China has increased their air quality since 1990, but in the past few years the progress has slowed or in some cases even reversed. Therefore the new 11th period FYP goals may not be very realistic.