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." »

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 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.

April 2, 2008

Beijing Olympics: Maybe There's Hope Yet

As the Olympics come closer, the attitude towards Beijing’s air quality becomes more optimistic. According to the top medical officer of the IOC, the air quality in Beijing is better than expected. However, there is still some risk for athletes who will be competing in endurance events this summer. According to Hein Verbruggen, the chairman of the IOC coordination commission, there is a small chance that athletes can suffer health damages if they are competing in events that last longer than an hour (for example, the marathon or the cycling race). And some athletes are still concerned: Haile Gebrselassie, a marathon runner with asthma, has stated that he will not compete this time because of the pollution. But on a better note, research has shown that there is virtually no risk for athletes competing in events that will last less than an hour.

Several issues have been discussed on how bad the pollution is in Beijing. The question is, was air pollution this big of an issue to prior Olympic cities? Kevan Gosper, the IOC press commission chief, stated that at every games he’s been an administer for since 1984, there have been concerns about air quality. Information was found on the past three summer Olympic locations: Athens, Sydney, and Atlanta. The table below displays what was found:

former Olymics.JPG
Based on the research, Athens had a lot of issues similar to the ones Beijing faces; in fact the Olympic committee strongly considered choosing a new city. Their air pollution was not up to par, like Beijing’s, but they still managed to pull it off. Sydney and Atlanta didn’t have as extreme of air pollution problems, but all previous cities took similar efforts that Beijing is taking. In the articles read, each city reduced transportation and green house emissions in preparation for the athletes. After looking a little into the history of the summer Olympic cities, it appears that Beijing isn’t alone in struggling to achieve air quality standards for holding the summer games. Gosper is confident that, like cities in previous years, Beijing will pull through it time.

There are several things that Beijing will do to try to minimize air pollution before the Olympics. They will take about half of the 2.5 million cars off the roads. When testing the proposed auto restriction system, there was a noticeable improvement in air quality. Also, industrial activity in Beijing and surrounding regions will be restricted prior to and during the Games.

Residents of Beijing have been noticing an improvement in air quality in the city, so the city seems to be making progress toward its goal of a “green Olympics.? Hopefully all events will be able to take place as planned, with no harm to any of the competitors.

Carbon Sequestration around the World

As more and more evidence of global warming is accumulated carbon capture projects appear on the horizon. According to MIT’s website Norway, Canada, Algeria, and the Netherlands already have some sort of carbon storage technology operating.

The first carbon sequestration project, called Sleipner, is located in Norway’s North Sea. The project was built by Statoil to avoid paying Norway’s carbon dioxide taxes. It deposits CO2 1000m below sea level. As of now it has deposited 8-9 MT of CO2. There is not yet any evidence to indicate leakage. Injection currently costs $17 US / Tonne CO2.

Sleipner is the world's first commercial CO2 storage project.

The US effort to develop carbon storage technology is beginning in Decatur, Illinois. The Department of Energy has awarded a $66.7 million dollar grant for the $84.3 million dollar project. The project has been approved to test the storage capacity of the sandstone in that region. Drilling is scheduled to begin this April with injection hopefully beginning June of 2009.

Many additional projects exist. The MIT website really provides a good look at what has been done and what is being planed. It is interesting that most of the projects are economically motivated. Usually to avoid taxes associated with the release of carbon dioxide. Could the US be more forward thinking in carbon sequestration projects? Many of the companies currently undertaking these projects are international oil companies. Apache, BP Stratoil, Chevron Texaco are some of the companies investing in capture technology. If they are investing elsewhere should they be made to invest in the US?


March 31, 2008

Energy Saving Tips for Home and Apartment

Most families and students want to save money. One way is saving money on home and apartment utilities. Saving energy is good for the pocket and simple, while preserving the environment.

A little bit can go a long way:
-Turn down your thermostat down to 70-65°F while you are there and 65-60°F while away saving 25% on your monthly heating bill
-Close off the vents to any unused room in the home and close the door
-Lock windows, it tightens the seal. Also cover single pane windows with plastic
-Turn down the thermostat on the water heater, the water heater accounts for 14-25% of monthly energy usage
-A water saving shower head will save $40 a year
-Turn up the temperature in your refrigerator
-Save half the energy in the dishwasher by not using the dry cycle
-During warm weather, line dry clothes
-Turn off or unplug appliances when not in use
-Do regular maintenance on appliances by replacing filters and removing scale build up
-Don’t block radiators with furniture for better circulation
-Insulate hot pipes
-Turn the lights off when you leave your room, lighting accounts for 15% of monthly energy usage
-Use fluorescent light bulbs or dimmer controls

Continue reading "Energy Saving Tips for Home and Apartment" »

March 7, 2008

Inefficiencies at UMD Continued

Green Construction on Campus

Innovations in the design and renovation of two UMD buildings have improved energy usage at UMD. The Life Science Renovation and the design of the Labovitz School of Business and Economics are going for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification as established by the U.S. Green Building Council. In the LEED rating system there are different levels of certification that can be awarded. These levels are decided by a point system that reflects how well the building is designed and built with “green? ideals in mind. There are a total of 69 points for new buildings and four point levels: Certified 26-32 points, Silver 33-38 points, Gold 39-51 points, Platinum 52-69 points. For the LSBE building UMD has applied for 40 points, with 24 earned in the design stage and 3 denied. The rest of the points are still pending with 9 that can only be awarded when construction is complete. Points from the design phase can be taken way if the finished building doesn’t reflect the design, and points that have been denied in the design phase can be awarded if the actual construction meets requirements. So with all that in mind it is very likely that LSBE will be LEED Certified at least with a chance at Silver and a very slim chance at Gold.

Without going into a more in-depth review of the information we have on the LSBE building it, seems that a lot of planning and effort was put into making the new building as Earth friendly as possible while still meeting the needs of the school. Of course it would be wonderful for the building to achieve the Platinum level but the points that UMD has not perused are either significantly more costly to peruse or just aren’t feasible here in Duluth.

For more information about the rating system for the LEED Program you can follow this link (page 4 is the project checklist that outlines the categories required)

We do not have any information on the Life Science renovation, but we did find some information about efficiency improvements over older buildings in the Swenson Science Building. The following link from Minnesota Power describes the energy efficiency efforts built into the Swenson Science Building and the grants UMD has received because of it.

We discussed several suggestions for further energy efficiencies for UMD buildings and want to know what you think about them.
-Light sensors in the dorms, dims hallway lights when no one is there but brightens when motion is detected
-Paint more walls white/light colors to reflect more light
-Apply weather stripping to the bottom of doors in the dorm hallways to control heat

It’s Not Just the Buildings…It’s the People That Can Make a Difference Too

There will still be problems with inefficiencies based solely on the energy consumption habits of individuals. This includes heating and cooling system temperature control, lighting and water usage.

Please continue to look around your own living environment to see what energy inefficiencies you see.

March 5, 2008

The current technologies of carbon capture and it's pros/cons.

By 2030 the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by new coal power plants is estimated to be approximately 7.6 billion metric tons. If companies can capture carbon dioxide before it escapes into the atmosphere this number will greatly reduce. Current carbon capture technologies due exist but are not yet making a big enough impact. These technologies allow for the capture of CO2 which is sent deep underground where it won't surface for thousands of years. This process aids in the recovery of oil in oil fields as well. Experts beleive this same idea can be applied to saline aquifers and other geological formations as well. CCS, carbon capture and storage facilities, exist but currently have performance and cost drawbacks with most of the costs being pushed upon the companies. The newest technology available, IGCC (Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle) allows for the removal of CO2 before combustion. The problem is that companies are frowning upon implementing this technology. The reasons for this are due to reliability and efficiency drawbacks. The only way to have companies jumping on the bandwagon would be to offer grants and aid to theses companies for implementing a environmentally friendly technology.

Link to site

Continue reading "The current technologies of carbon capture and it's pros/cons." »

March 4, 2008

Ozone: Good Up High, Bad Nearby

Ozone is a pale blue, relatively unstable molecule made of three atoms of oxygen, represented with the chemical formula O3. It was first discovered by Christian Friedrich Schonbein, a German scientist, in 1893. Ozone molecules are angular, polar, and diamagnetic. The oxygen bond lengths are identical. Ozone is formed from molecular oxygen (O2) by ultraviolet and extreme ultraviolet photolysis and then recombination of atomic oxygen (O) with O2. It can also be formed by passing an electrical discharge through gaseous oxygen. Ozone has a unique odor that is often noticed during electrical storms and near electrical equipment.
Ozone can have vastly different effects depending on where ozone resides. At atmospheric heights of about 15 miles up, ozone acts as a shield to protect Earth’s surface from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation. It this shield was not there, humans would be more vulnerable to skin cancer, cataracts, and impaired immune systems. In the air closer to Earth, that humans breathe, ozone is a harmful pollutant that can damage lung tissue and plants. Ozone is a major component of smog. Because ozone also reacts strongly with other molecules, it is dangerous to have large concentrations near the ground. Hot weather and strong sunlight cause ground-level ozone concentration levels to rise to hazardously high levels. Urban areas often have high levels of “bad? ozone.
About 90 percent of the Earth’s ozone is at higher altitudes, where it absorbs ultraviolet radiation. Wither out the shield in the stratosphere, the radiation would have an easy path to follow to strike Earth. The hole in the ozone layer is allowing this radiation a clearer shot at the Earth.
Ozone depletion occurs naturally over Antarctica because of the ice clouds formed during the winter. The ice clouds convert the chlorine to its atomic form. The air over Antarctica is the only place where it is cold enough for the reactions necessary to convert the ozone to oxygen due to the polar vortex formed by the cold polar winds. There is no hole above the North Pole because the average temperature is warmer than at the South Pole.
The polar winds keep the ozone surrounding the hole from filling in the hole, but if the winds are strong enough to keep the ozone out, why don’t they keep the hole from getting bigger? Any thoughts would be great. We hope to answer this in our next post.

February 29, 2008

Beijing Air: leaving people breathless

In 2005, the EPA forecasted that Beijing would be prepared for the 2008 Olympics. Now that they are only 6 months away and there's still quite a bit of work to do.

China is trying to fall in line with latest European emission standards. This includes using more environmentally friendly fuels for cars. However, China's deputy director of the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau states that, "China is still a developing country and therefore cannot adopt the same standard used by developed countries. It is impossible for Beijing's present air situation to reach the European standard." This is no excuse for poor air quality. If they're not a sufficiently developed country, maybe they shouldn't be hosting the Olympics.

Also, cities around Beijing are working to reduce their air pollution as well. According to scientists, the pollution from heavily industrialized surrounding areas is responsible for a large part of Beijing's air quality problems. Because of this, several facilities will be closing down in Beijing and surrounding areas prior to the Olympic Games. This will cause many workers to be laid off and loose pay. Also, managers of restaurants and night clubs near the Olympic facilities will lose business and possibly workers due to increased security measures when their establishments are temporarily closed.

The Beijing population live, work, and breathe in gray, pea-soup thick polluted air most days. They actually keep track of how many actual “blue sky? days; these are days when you can actually see the sky. Here’s a picture of a leisurely bike ride taken in Beijing.

Yao Ming (the best basketball player in China) is doubtful for summer Olympics participation. Is this due to poor air quality or broken foot..??

February 25, 2008

Transportation Emission Control

The emissions caused by motor vehicles and non-road equipment have made a significnat impact on the air quality throughout the world since their introductions. While current vehicle emmision standards have abruptly reduced the amount of pollution coming from virtually every tailpipe in being produced today, more research needs to be conducted in the feilds of fuels, vehicle control systems and catalytic converters. While we have improved emission standards in the past 25 years, the effects of vehicle pollution are still such a problem due to the fact that more people are driving more miles. One way to reduce emissions that seems feasible right now is the use of alcohols as fuels the most common of these being E85 which is 85% ethanol.

Fuels -
Catalytic converters -§ion=Emission+Control+Technology

General info -

February 14, 2008

The Hole in the Ozone: Growing or Shrinking?

The hole in the ozone layer has a negative impact on the Earth and its weather patterns. But what actually causes the hole to form and what is being done to combat the problem?
Most of the ozone molecules in the Earth’s atmosphere are found in the stratosphere. During the winter in the southern hemisphere, a wind vortex forms around the South Pole, causing the polar stratosphere to be isolated. Thin clouds of ice, nitric acid, and sulfuric acid form as temperatures drop below -109°F. Chlorofluorocarbons, CFCs, are formed when chemical reactions occur on the surfaces of the ice crystals. With the release of CFCs, depletion of ozone molecules begins, and the ozone hole appears. Over the ensuing winter months, about fifty percent of the total amount of ozone in the atmosphere disappears. Loses of almost ninety percent are not uncommon in some cases. As spring arrives, so do warmer temperatures, which cause the ice to evaporate and the ozone layer recovers.
After discovery of the Antarctic ozone hole in 1985 and much negotiation, the Montreal Protocol on Substances the Deplete the Ozone Layer was established on September 16, 1987 at the Headquarters of the International Civil Aviation Organization in Montreal. The Montreal Protocol mandated that the consumption and production of ozone depleting compounds, including CFCs and carbon tetrachloride, was to be ended by 2000 with methyl chloroform production and consumption ending by 2005.
It’s great that the Montreal Protocol was agreed on and ratified by over 100 countries, but is it actually successful in helping to fight ozone depletion?

The following is a list of a few relevant websites discussing the current and future trends of the ozone:
This site is for a book that says that the issue of the hole in the ozone layer may not be getting smaller and lists reasons why.

This site has several links to information about what would be affected if the hole in the ozone got bigger. It also lists reasons why the hole in the ozone layer is shrinking.
This site gives information about the hole in the ozone decreasing in size.

These will be discussed in depth in future posts.

February 12, 2008

Air Pollution, Beijing, and the Olympics

There has been quite a bit of concern as to whether or not Beijing will have cleaned up its air in time for the 2008 Summer Olympics. There is some disagreement between air pollution agencies and the athletes about this. Beijing is working to improve its air quality before the Summer Games, and many organizations believe that China is making progress toward this goal. However, many athletes remain concerned about their health in the upcoming Olympics, due to the poor quality of Beijing's air. Some athletes would prefer to train in Hong Kong or Japan to avoid the air in Beijing for as long as possible, although Beijing has been working to reduce air pollution and is taking measures to ensure that the air will be breathable during the Games. This would include possibly shutting down polluting industries prior to the Games and heavily restricting traffic during the Games. However, may agencies fear that these will only be temporary fixes, and Beijing's overall air quality will not be much improved after the Olympics are over.

Current ideas for controlling air pollution in Beijing include restricting traffic by only allowing cars with license plates ending in an odd number to drive, alternating with the even numbered license plates every 4 days. There are 6500 police out monitoring this, with tickets at approximately $16. Here's a link to the CNN report:
This may help, but will not solve the problem. Also, by restricting traffic, a good public transit system in Beijing will be required.

Stay tuned for more efforts implemented by the EPA to clean up Beijing's air.

February 11, 2008

Mercury Pollution Effects, Sources, and Solutions

As Minnesotans, mercury has a special place in our hearts as one of our most hated pollutants. It finds its way from our coal burning power plants to our soil and water. Here, bacteria convert it in to methylmercury and it enters the food chain through aquatic plants and organisms. It eventually accumulates in larger predatory fish,
notably the delicious walleye, our official state fish.
In the past couple of decades, the amount of mercury being emitted by coal-fired power plants has been decreasing, but as is illustrated by the fish consumption advisories regularly issued throughout our region, there is much room for improvement. There are some mercury specific controls close to being ready for wide scale implementation that would drastically decrease emissions. Currently, the most widely studied of these is activated carbon injection. With this technology, powder activated carbon (PAC) sorbent is injected in to the flue gas before it reaches the particulate matter control device. The mercury is adsorbed by the PAC and collected along with the particulate matter.
The Presque Isle Power Plant in Marquette, MI will be the first to implement a full-scale commercial demonstration project for activated carbon injection when the project is completed in 2009.

We would like to get some response as to what effects, if any, the Duluth community has had with mercury levels in fish.

Below is a post from the MN DNR as to the recommended maximum amount of fish which can be consumed from Fish Lake, located just north of Duluth.

Fish Consumption Advisory
Meal Advice for Pregnant Women, Women who may become pregnant and Children under age 15

Species: Walleye
less than 20" : 1 meal per week
20" to 30" : 1 meal per month

Meal Advice for the General Population

Species: Walleye
less than 15" : Unlimited
15" to 25" : 1 meal per week
25" to 30" : 1 meal per moth

Additional lake information is contained in the MN DNR website.

February 10, 2008

Air Pollution in China

China is growing at a feverous pace and is now home to 16 of the 20 most polluted cities on the planet. What are the health, economical, and image repercussions from this pollution? And what are the plans to curb their growing problem?
Coal is cheap and abundant in several of China’s providences. It is also an extremely dirty fuel. China's coal output has nearly doubled from 1.25 billion tons in 2000 to 2.38 billion tons in 2006.

Scored, “A slight pollution day?

Looking at the picture above I would not consider this a slight pollution day. What would this day be rated by the United States’ Air Quality Index?
Is ordering people not to drive for the day if their license plate ends with an even or odd number a solution? Sure this may help ease congestion in the major cities and produce a noticeable decrease in the surrounding air pollution, but it is not the answer. China needs a long term solution that will work with their economy.

February 9, 2008

Inefficiencies at UMD

Our goal is to research and present efficient energy usage and reduction in student on campus and off campus housing. This will be demonstrated through energy saving tips on apartment and dorm heating and lighting. We will also look into various UMD campus locations and the options to improve the energy efficiency. We would like our fellow bloggers to look around their own living environment to see what energy inefficiencies they see. To bloggers, how many of you have had to open your window the winter?

February 8, 2008

With the problem of global warming upon us the world needs to implement carbon capture technologies that are both economical and effective.

The basic idea of global warming is a simple one. The sun emits solar radiation that reaches the earth which warms its surface. The earth, trying to achieve steady state, emits radiation back into space in order to keep it at a certain temperature. When greenhouse gases are present in our atmosphere this steady state balance is thrown off balance. These greenhouse gases absorb the heat and hence the temperature will steadily rise. Currently one third of carbon emissions in the U.S. come from coal powered power plants with the flue gases from these processes containing 10-12 percent CO2. The question humanity needs to ask is how to deal with this problem? Should the U.S. use carbon capturing technologies to get rid of the current amount or should we install and practice better omission technologies to attack the problem before it escalates?