AmeriScan: April 10, 2007

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Governors Push for Clean Energy Laws, Investments

WASHINGTON, DC, April 10, 2007 (ENS) - The nation's governors have adopted a set of federal energy legislative priorities that they would like the 110th Congress to enact.

The National Governors Association, NGA, today urged Congress to expand the alternative fuels standard, enhance transportation fuel efficiency, extend renewable energy tax credits, incentivize carbon capture and sequestration technologies, boost energy efficiency and conservation, and increase funds to promote advanced technologies.

The NGA Natural Resources Committee will hold a special field hearing in Salt Lake City, Utah on Sunday, April 15, to talk about these priorities and explore concrete steps the states can take to meet America’s clean energy goals.

"Many governors have taken strong steps to create energy initiatives in their states that promote clean, secure and affordable energy for our future," said Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, Jr., chair of the NGA Natural Resources Committee.

"This NGA field hearing is a unique and important opportunity for energy policy experts across the country to participate in shaping the national landscape for energy policy," Huntsman said.

The field hearing is part of the first Utah Energy Summit taking place April 14-17 in Salt Lake City. The Summit will bring together government officials, business leaders, consumer advocates and the academic community to examine key energy issues in Utah and set energy policy and energy development in the future.

Huntsman says the Utah Energy Summit will promote Utah's potential as a regional and national leader in the development of clean and diversified energy, encourage greater investment in Utah's energy production and efficiency sectors, and promote his "ambitious energy efficiency plan."

The field hearing will feature a governors’ advisors panel addressing the nation’s rising demand for energy and reviewing energy sector polices to advance energy development.

Participants will discuss new federal energy initiatives and opportunities for partnerships between the federal government and states. The field hearing will end with a discussion among representatives from the investment community about promoting clean energy investments in states.

"States have become the real policy drivers on creating clean energy jobs and a renewable energy future," said New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, vice chair of the NGA Natural Resources Committee. "We call on Congress to adopt each of the measures to ensure America’s energy security."

In New Mexico, Richardson has this year enacted clean energy bills to promote biodiesel, give tax credits for renewable energy production, and boost the state's renewable portfolio standard. On Monday he signed the first tax credit in the nation to cover carbon capture technology and include specific capture goals at coal fired power plants.

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Vermont Squares Off Against Automakers on CO2 Emissions

BURLINGTON, Vermont, April 10, 2007 (ENS) - A trial that began today in Vermont will, for the first time, determine whether the state has the authority under the federal Clean Air Act to limit carbon dioxide emissions from cars and trucks.

The case pits two major automakers against the states of Vermont and New York and five environmental groups. Vermont enacted its new greenhouse gas regulations pursuant to the federal Clean Air Act, following California's tough carbon dioxide emissions limits.

The automakers contend that Vermont’s standards are preempted by another federal statute which regulates corporate average fuel economy, CAFE, standards.

"In the face of federal inaction to combat climate change, states have chosen to lead the way by using the authority granted to them in the Clean Air Act to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles," said Chris Kilian, vice president of the Conservation Law Foundation, CLF, and director of its Vermont Advocacy Center.

CLF is one of the five environmental groups that has intervened in the lawsuit and its legal team is working with the Vermont Attorney General’s office to defend the state’s emissions standards. Also intervening on behalf of the states are the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Vermont Public Interest Research Group.

Green Mountain Chrysler Plymouth Dodge Jeep and Green Mountain Ford Mercury, both of East Dorset, Vermont, and Joe Tornabene's GMC of Pownal are plaintiffs in the case, in addition to General Motors, DaimlerChrysler, and two auto industry trade groups.

The automakers argue that the states do not have the right to set the fuel economy standard for cars, that only the federal Transportation Department has that right, and that carbon dioxide emissions limits are a "de facto fuel economy standard."

In addition, the automakers claim, if states are allowed to follow California's emissions limits it will be costly to consumers and harmful to the industry.

The Association of International Automobile Manufacturers, AIAM, is one of two automotive trade groups challenging the Vermont rule. Its members include Aston Martin, Ferrari, Honda, Hyundai, Isuzu, Kia, Maserati, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Peugeot, Renault, Subaru, Suzuki and Toyota.

These companies account for about 40 percent of all new passenger cars and light trucks sold annually in the United States.

"We will demonstrate the direct link between a CO2 emissions limit and a miles- per-gallon fuel economy standard," said AIAM in a statement Monday.

"We believe this issue should be dealt with by all sectors of the economy, not just our industry," said Charles Territo, communications director for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the other plaintiff automakers trade group. Its members are BMW, DaimlerChrysler, Ford, General Motors, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Porsche, Toyota and Volkswagen.

The trial follows a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on April 2 that ordered the federal government to take a fresh look at regulating carbon dioxide emissions, saying the Clean Air Act gives the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency the authority to do so.

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Feds Fund Battery Research for Plug-in Hybrid Electrics

WASHINGTON, DC, April 10, 2007 (ENS) – The U.S. Department of Energy, DOE, is spending up to $14 million for plug-in hybrid electric vehicle battery research. The development of a lower cost, high-energy battery has been identified as a critical pathway toward commercialization of plug-in hybrids.

The funds will go to a $28 million cost-shared solicitation by the United States Advanced Battery Consortium, USABC.

USABC is a consortium of the United States Council for Automotive Research, the umbrella organization for collaborative research among DaimlerChrysler Corporation, Ford Motor Company and General Motors Corporation.

Supported by a cooperative agreement with the Energy Department, USABC’s mission is to develop electrochemical energy storage technologies that support commercialization of fuel cell, hybrid, and electric vehicles.

This research aims to find solutions to improving battery performance so vehicles can deliver up to 40 miles of electric range without recharging. This would include most roundtrip daily commutes.

DOE and the USABC seek to identify electrochemical storage technologies capable of meeting or approaching USABC’s criteria for performance, weight, life-cycle, and cost.

Other considerations include the potential to commercialize proposed battery technologies and bring them to market quickly.

A copy of USABC’s request for proposal information can be downloaded here. The submission deadline is Thursday, May 31, 2007.

For more information on DOE’s Vehicle Technologies Program, visit: http://www.eere.energy.gov/vehiclesandfuels/.

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First Database of Endocrine Info for Fish Compiled

WASHINGTON, DC, Apri 10, 2007 (ENS) - The first national database of endocrine information for fish collected in U.S. streams and rivers was released today by the U.S. Geological Survey, USGS.

The USGS report provides baseline inofrmation on endocrine and reproductive condition in two species of fish - common carp and largemouth bass.

"Field studies of contaminants in aquatic ecosystems frequently focus on local hot spots," said Dr. Steve Goodbred, a USGS scientist and lead author of the report.

"Although such studies have great value in understanding the occurrence of contaminants and possible alterations in endocrine and reproductive biomarkers in fish, it is important to acquire baseline information across large geographic areas to help establish what is normal for that species at that season and in that region," he said.

The database provides a vital national basis for comparison that will be used by scientists studying endocrine disruption at individual sites across the country.

The database includes information on sex steroid hormones; vitellogenin, an egg protein that indicates exposure to estrogenic substances when found in male fish; and the reproductive stages for common carp and largemouth bass.

From 1994 to 1997, USGS researchers collected fish at 119 sites around the country to determine levels of and variability in reproductive and endocrine biomarkers, and to determine their potential usefulness in assessing reproductive health and status in fish.

Aquatic ecosystems sampled include the Mississippi and Columbia rivers, the Colorado, Willamette, Potomac, Red River of the North, Platte, Hudson, Missouri, and Connecticut rivers. The sites were characterized by different land uses and levels of disturbance.

Previous studies by USGS and others have reported correlations between specific reproductive impairment and elevated tissue concentrations of environmental contaminants. Changes include reduced fertility, hatchability, viability of young, impaired hormone activity, and altered sexual development and behavior.

Abnormalities of these types may be caused by alteration of normal endocrine function.

To view the national data report and an accompanying fact sheet, click here.

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Simple Rules to Follow in Case of Nuclear Attack

PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania, April 10, 2007 (ENS) - In the current television adventure series, "24," a terrorist explodes a small nuclear bomb in Los Angeles. Today, Carnegie Mellon researchers Keith Florig and Baruch Fischhoff offered simple, practical advice that people everywhere can use if faced by such a threat.

The two scientists consider whether it is worth citizens' time to stock supplies needed for a home shelter, how urgently should one seek shelter following a nearby nuclear detonation, and how long should survivors remain in a shelter after the radioactive dust settles.

"Our research illustrates how relatively simple analyses that consider citizens' circumstances can help make the best of a bad situation," said Fischhoff, a professor in Carnegie Mellon's social and decision sciences and the engineering and public policy department.

Fischhoff and Florig, a senior research engineer, say many families simply cannot afford the government guidelines for stocking in supplies.

"A number of emergency management organizations recommend that people stock their homes with a couple dozen categories of emergency supplies," said Florig. "We calculated that it would cost about $240 per year for a typical family to maintain such a stock, including the value of storage space and the time needed to tend to it."

The researchers say there is a "low probability" that stocked supplies would actually be used in a nuclear emergency.

"Government websites such as Ready.gov recommend that people take shelter or evacuate following a nuclear blast, but provide no information that might help people determine how much time they have to react before a fallout cloud arrives," said Florig.

The two scientists offer simple rules for minimizing risk based on how far people are from the blast.

If you are within several miles of the blast, there will be no time to flee and you will have only minutes to seek shelter, they say.

If you are 10 miles from the blast, you will have 15 to 60 minutes to find shelter, but not enough time to reliably flee the area before the fallout arrives," said Florig.

As to long people should remain sheltered in a contaminated area before it is riskier to stay than to evacuate, the researchers say the answer depends on how good their shelters are and how long it would take to evacuate.

"Those who have poor shelters, limited stores and no access to a vehicle will need the most help to escape," they said. Their findings are published in the May 2007 issue of the journal "Health Physics."

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Nuclear Control Institute Founder Paul Leventhal Dies

WASHINGTON, DC, April 10, 2007 (ENS) - Paul Leventhal, founder of the Nuclear Control Institute, died today at age 69 of cancer.

Leventhal founded the Nuclear Control Institute, NCI, in 1981 and served as its president until his retirement in June 2002, when he assumed the office of president emeritus.

He has prepared four books for the Institute and has lectured in a number of countries on nuclear issues, including as Distinguished Visiting Fellow at Cambridge University's Global Security Programme.

Leventhal organized the Institute's International Task Force on Prevention of Nuclear Terrorism, and its conference in South America on averting a nuclear arms race between Argentina and Brazil.

Leventhal

Wearing his trademark bow tie, Paul Leventhal addresses journalists at the National Press Club on the subject of Iran's nuclear weapons. January 31, 2006. (Photo courtesy NCI)
He organized a coalition of eminent U.S. scientists and diplomats seeking a halt in further production of nuclear weapons materials, and a working group of public interest organizations in Washington on nuclear proliferation issues.

Leventhal held senior staff positions in the United States Senate on nuclear power and proliferation issues.

He served as special counsel to the Senate Government Operations Committee, l972-1976, and as staff director of the Senate Nuclear Regulation Subcommittee, l979-1981.

He was responsible for the investigations and legislation that resulted in enactment of two landmark nuclear laws - the Energy Reorganization Act of 1974, replacing the Atomic Energy Commission with separate regulatory and promotional agencies, and the Nuclear NonProliferation Act of 1978, establishing stricter controls on U.S. nuclear trade to combat the spread of nuclear weapons.

He also served as director of the Senate Special Investigation of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Accident, 1979-1980, and prepared the legislation enacted in 1980 to require preventive measures and emergency planning for future accidents.

Leventhal was a research fellow at Harvard University's Program for Science and International Affairs, 1976-1977, concentrating on nuclear weapons proliferation under a grant from the Ford Foundation.

He served as Assistant Administrator for Policy and Planning at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in 1977 and 1978.

Leventhal came to Washington in 1969 as press secretary to Senator Jacob Javits, a New York Republican, after a decade of political and investigative reporting for the "Cleveland Plain Dealer," "New York Post," and "Newsday."

In l972, he served as Congressional correspondent for "National Journal" before returning to Capitol Hill to pursue legislative and investigative responsibilities.

He holds a bachelor's degree in government, magna cum laude, from Franklin and Marshall College. The college presented him its Alumni Medal in 1988 for distinguished professional accomplishment and contributions to society. He holds a master's degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

Paul Leventhal is survived by his wife Sharon Tanzer, vice-president of the Nuclear Control Institute, and his sons, Ted and Josh.

The papers documenting his initiatives have been collected and catalogued at the National Security Archive, George Washington University, in Washington, DC. The Institute's website will remain online at http://www.nci.org.