Analyst: U.S. Gas Price Shows Shrinking Global Oil ReservesBERKELEY, California
, August 16, 2005 (ENS) - On Friday, crude oil prices soared to a record $67.10 per barrel, a rise of nearly $10 a barrel over the three weeks that ended Friday. They have fallen off a few cents today, but gasoline prices are still at record levels.
Regional gas prices are highest on the Pacific Coast, averaging $2.71 a gallon, compared to a low average of $2.43 in the Mountain West.
The well known Lundberg Survey on Saturday attributed the high gasoline prices to high crude oil prices, but petroleum analyst Jan Lundberg, who founded the Lundberg Survey and then left the business in 1988, has a different explanation. He says global oil extraction has reached its peak.
"The peak of world oil extraction is approximately now, although reserves data from the oil industry and OPEC are notoriously unreliable," he said Sunday.
"Shortage of crude oil has started to make itself felt, as strained production levels of the most useful crudes reflect tight supply. It is true that oil demand has managed to reach record levels, but oil fields inevitably peter out," he told Fox News Radio.
Nearly 20 oil exporting countries are past their peak in production, and Saudi Arabia is showing signs of leveling off, Lundberg warned.
"Refining capacity is almost maxed out, but industry sees little point in building more refineries when crude supply is in doubt," Lundberg added. World discoveries peaked by 1965, and the trend in declining discovery is unalterable. U.S. production peaked in 1970.
"Growth of the economy ends when petroleum is in short supply. When the market really feels the gap between supply and demand widen, the price will go through the roof.
"Alternative energy sources are not ready. The coming oil shock will signal an historic flip-over from expanding our civilization via petroleum dependence to seeing the commencement - after "petrocollapse" - of a reversion to sustainable living based on local ecological capacity. The short answer to 'What do we do now?' is conserve, radically."
Steven Roach, an analyst for Morgan Stanley said, "I don’t know where oil prices are going. But I do feel strongly that an important macro threshold has now been breached - one that adds unmistakable tension to the world economy’s greatest imbalances."
Some analysts forecast oil costing around $70 a barrel in the short term.
Others say it will soar even higher.
Jean-Francois Giannesini, an oil expert at the French Oil Institute said, "Prices are going to keep rising, maybe to $80 or $100 a barrel, until consumers decide to reduce their consumption. Until we have reached that level, they will not cut back," he told Europe 1 radio last week.
Irradiation of Oysters, Mussels, Clams ApprovedWASHINGTON, DC
, August 16, 2005 (ENS) - When it comes to announcing new regulations that allow ionizing radiation to be used on food, the U.S. government always calls the process "safe."
Today The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it is amending the food additive regulations "to provide for the safe use of ionizing radiation for control of Vibrio species and other foodborne pathogens in fresh or frozen molluscan shellfish" such as oysters, mussels, clams.
But Wenonah Hauter, director of the Food Program for the campaign group Public Citizen, is not so sure.
Calling the FDA's decision to permit the use of irradiation on oysters, clams and mussels "misguided," Hauter says despite years of consumer resistance to eating irradiated food, "the government continues to forge a path down which very few consumers are willing to tread."
"Grocery stores rarely carry irradiated meat because it doesn't sell. The National School Lunch Program has yet to order a single pound of irradiated ground beef despite the federal government's 2003 approval of such purchases for the program," said Hauter. "Several food irradiation facilities have closed their doors in the past two years due to lack of business."
The FDA is promoting irradiation despite the fact that questions about long-term health impacts of irradiation remain unanswered and despite the fact that alternatives exist, she said.
On August 8, FDA Commissioner Lester Crawford told the International Congress on Meat Science and Technology that the risk of food-borne illnesses in shellfish can be reduced by cutting the time from harvest to refrigeration, freezing, and using high pressure or mild heating.
He said, "85-90 percent of Vibrio illnesses in the Gulf Coast states could be eliminated if the product were iced within four hours or refrigerated within one hour of harvest."
On August 13, the agency conducted a public hearing in Alabama to present findings from a risk analysis for Vibrio parahaemolyticus, a bacteria found in oysters that causes food poisoning.
Irradiation was one of many treatments mentioned in the study, but the study's conclusions contained no endorsement of irradiation or evidence that it is the best mitigation technique.
The FDA quotes the World Health Organization that concluded that while levels of some vitamins are decreased when food is irradiated at doses relevant for food irradiation, few vitamins are severely affected, with the exception of thiamine and vitamin E. "These losses are small (on the order of 10 to 20 percent or less) at or below an overall average absorbed dose of 10 kGy (kiloGray) and are comparable to losses seen with other forms of food processing, such as thermal processing and drying," the FDA said.
The FDA cites the international non-binding Codex organization made up of member governments who say this level of radiation is "of no concern."
A long risk analysis of all the historical data on food irradiation follows in the Federal Register notice of this change in the regulations, found here.
In the end, the FDA concludes irradiation is "safe" and no environmental impact statement is required.
Again, Hauter is not so sure.
"Few studies have been done on the effects of irradiating shellfish," she says, and one study cited by the FDA risk analysis study as demonstrating the effectiveness of irradiation also finds that irradiation doses at very low levels produced an unpleasant yellow byproduct.
"The risk analysis does not discuss the safety or nutrition issues surrounding this or other byproducts, such as the class of irradiation byproducts called alkylcyclobutanones," Hauter says. "These have been linked with tumor promotion and genetic damage and are produced when fat is irradiated. Shellfish have fat, so alkylcyclobutanones could be formed when shellfish is irradiated."
Alkylcyclobutanones are not mentioned in the FDA analysis.
Today in the United States irradiation is legally applied to a variety of foods including wheat flour, white potatoes, pork, poultry, meat, fruits and vegetables, herbs and spices.
"The government should ensure a procedure is safe before permitting its use," Hauter says. "We urge the FDA to rescind this rule and deny other pending petitions that would allow more kinds of food to be irradiated."
To read the rule in today's Federal Register, click here.
More information supporting irradiation is found at the Centers for Disease Control here.
Public Citizen is online at: www.publiccitizen.org
Pennsylvania to Write Mercury Regs Stricter Than Federal StandardsHARRISBURG, Pennsylvania
, August 16, 2005 (ENS) - The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is beginning a process to develop state-specific regulations to control mercury emissions in Pennsylvania.
Environmental Protection Secretary Kathleen McGinty said today that the state Environmental Quality Board approved DEP's recommendation to move forward with plans to "preserve the economic vitality of the state's coal industry while protecting public health."
The Environmental Quality Board (EQB) is a 20-member independent board that reviews all of DEP's regulations.
Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future (PennFuture) filed a petition in August 2004 asking the state to consider whether regulations need to be developed to control mercury emissions here. DEP responded on May 18 and reported that a proposed rulemaking should be developed to reduce mercury emissions in Pennsylvania.
The EQB's action today sets that rulemaking process in motion.
PennFuture) today praised McGinty, Governor Ed Rendell, and the majority of the Environmental Quality Board. "This is a great day for the health of Pennsylvanians," said John Hanger, president and CEO of PennFuture. "With one woman out of every six of childbearing age carrying amounts of mercury in their bodies that are great enough to cause brain damage to their developing fetus or nursing newborn, we have a public health emergency. And this emergency is causing havoc not just to the families, but to health care facilities, schools, social service agencies and the community as a whole."
"Despite heavy lobbying against the regulation by the polluters, the Rendell Administration, DEP Secretary McGinty and the EQB stood firm, fighting for stringent rules requiring the power plants to stop spewing mercury,"said Hanger. "The families of Pennsylvania will be the true beneficiaries of their political courage."
Mercury is emitted when coal is burned for power, and coal-rich Pennsylvania is at risk for mercury deposition on its lands and waters. When in water, microorganisms convert the mercury into the form methylmercury, which is absorbed by fish and concentrated as it moves up the food chain.
At least 45 states - including Pennsylvania - have issued fish consumption advisories because of elevated mercury levels in fish and shellfish and the adverse effects of mercury on human beings and animals.
In 2003, electric steam generating units in Pennsylvania accounted for 77 percent of the 5.7 tons of mercury emitted from air contamination sources in the commonwealth. Texas is the only state with greater mercury emissions than Pennsylvania, said McGinty.
Pennsylvania has filed several lawsuits challenging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's final mercury emissions reduction rule for new and existing coal-fired power plants that establishes a cap and trade scheme for the industry as a whole rather than requiring emissions reductions or all power plants.
The cases also challenge EPA's subcategorization of coal types, which encourages fuel switching away from Pennsylvania bituminous coal in favor of coal mined in the western United States.
"The federal mercury rule does not sufficiently protect public health and is a potentially severe blow to our economy," McGinty said. "Inaction is not an option. We need to change course to keep our residents safe and our economy strong."
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Air Mercury Rule became final in May 2005 and took effect nationwide on July 18. Pennsylvania must submit to EPA by November 17, 2006, a state plan that describes how it will implement and enforce the federal emissions guidelines or its own more protective standards.
The state Environmental Quality Board voted 16-3 to allow the state rulemaking process to move forward. The rulemaking will follow the normal public participation process, including working with stakeholders on all sides of the issue.
The EPA rule places more stringent emissions standards on bituminous coal mined in eastern states like Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia. The most stringent regulations are placed on waste coal.
Little or no reductions are required of power generating units using sub-bituminous coal from the West.
McGinty explained that because of the disparities in the emission standards, owners of coal-fired units that generally burn bituminous coal could comply with the final mercury emissions standards simply by switching fuels.
"This encourages a shift away from Pennsylvania coal, and will result in a very real and significant economic dislocation for the state's coal industry," she said.
The Pennsylvania Coal Association (PCA) and United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) joined the state environmental agency in June 2004 to ask the federal EPA to drop plans to disadvantage Pennsylvania coal, although the organizations disagree among themselves on key aspects of the federal mercury rule, McGinty said.
Work Resumes at New Hampshire Plating Superfund SiteMERRIMACK, New Hampshire
, August 16, 2005 (ENS) - The 13 acre New Hampshire Plating Superfund site operated as an electroplating facility from 1962 to 1985. Wastewater containing metals, solvents and cyanide used in the electroplating operations was discharged into drainage channels in the former building floor, and flowed into unlined lagoons north of the building.
Contaminants from the unlined lagoons impacted on-site wetlands, contaminated surface and subsurface soils, and reached the groundwater. Groundwater throughout the area has been found to contain volatile organic compounds.
This week, work resumed in an attempt to remove the contamination from the site and stabilize it.
Over the next year, contractors hired by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will excavate and treat between up to 90,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil. The dirt will be treated with a process known as chemical fixation that the EPA says binds metal contaminants, preventing them from being available to migrate and contaminate the underlying groundwater.
The treated materials will then be backfilled into the excavation areas on site and graded with the rest of the property.
A water permeable cap will be constructed over the treated soils, and the property will be configured and planted.
Last fall, EPA contractors cleared seven acres of brush, trees, and overgrowth from the site so that construction vehicles could access the property.
In the early spring, EPA oversaw the demolition of a 13,600 ton concrete storage cell, created during an earlier phase of work at the site. The concrete was broken into gravel-sized pieces and stockpiled on site. It will be used in the construction of the permeable cap.
In 2001, EPA awarded a grant of $99,000 to the Town of Merrimack, to develop a reuse plan for the site. The reuse plan that the town’s landscape architect developed calls for recreational use of the site.
To date, EPA has spent a total of about $8.5 million at the site to conduct interim cleanup measures, perform comprehensive site investigations and complete remedial design efforts.
In addition, as compensation for the loss of wetlands at the site, the EPA and New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services have provided over $1.6 million for the purchase and protection of the 50 acre Greens Pond wetland area in Merrimack and the 38 acre Grassy Pond wetland area in Litchfield.
The New Hampshire Plating Company declared itself a hazardous waste disposal facility in 1980 under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.
Because of the discharges of wastes and wastewaters to four unlined lagoons from the electroplating operations, the company was ordered to abate its activities. The company halted operations in 1985 because they were unable to meet their financial obligations to continue environmental compliance and hydrogeologic investigations at the site.
The EPA has been working on this site since 1989. Between 1989 and 1994, EPA stabilized contaminated soils and sludge in an on-site storage cell, removed additional soil for off-site disposal, and demolished a former electroplating building and underground storage tanks. The site was added to the Superfund list in 1992.
s Find out more about chemical fixation of soils contaminated with organic chemicals at: http://www.nato.int/ccms/s13/report/intrm19.html
California Governor Asks $25 Million for Cleaner School BusesSTOCKTON, California
, August 16, 2005 (ENS) - Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger Monday visited the Stockton City Unified School District to discuss $25 million dedicated in his budget to replace or retrofit polluting school buses with lower-emission, safer models through the California Air Resources Board's (ARB) Lower-Emission School Bus Program.
"I am committed to protecting the health and well-being of our children by building a new fleet of school buses that will run more safely and cleaner than ever before," said Schwarzenegger.
"My budget devotes $25 million to replacing unsafe buses, and to putting new controls on the worst polluters to make sure they are cleaner and reduce the amount of emissions they put into our air. With additional funding this year, we will be able to clean up almost 1,000 buses, investing in both the health of our children and the future of California."
Older buses generate 10 times more particulate pollution than newer, cleaner models. The ARB's Children's School Bus Exposure Study, completed in 2003, indicated that children who ride school buses will likely have increased exposure to diesel exhaust since these exhaust levels are higher inside the bus than in passenger cars.
If approved, the $25 million would continue the process of removing the 1,000 pre-1977 school buses still being used and installing pollution controls on the more than 10,000 1978 and newer buses in operation in the state today that are most in need for pollution retrofits.
The ARB estimates the $25 million will provide for the replacement of 100 buses and the retrofit of at least 850 buses.
The ARB's Lower-Emission School Bus Program has provided financial incentives to replace high-emitting school buses with cleaner than required new buses or to retrofit in-use diesel buses since 2000.
Over the past four years, approximately 475 school buses have been replaced, an additional 100 school buses have been replaced through match funding contributed by local air districts and approximately 3,000 have been retrofitted.
"I am proud of the great success the Lower Emissions School Bus Program has had and extremely pleased with the Governor's commitment and enhanced emphasis on ridding our school bus fleets of older air polluting buses," said California Air Resources Board Chair Cindy Tuck.
School buses produced prior to 1977 do not meet minimum federal motor vehicle safety standards. They do not have special safety features that modern buses have, such as: passenger crash protection equipment, breaks that allow the bus to stop in a shorter distance than other large vehicles, warning lights to alert other motorists when the bus is loading or unloading students, mirrors that allow the driver to see all areas around the bus, emergency exits, rollover protection and fuel system protection.
The Stockton City Unified School District currently has a total of 92 buses in operation. Of those buses, 21 were built prior to 1977, 52 were built prior to 1990 and 19 buses were built after 1991.
Type of Pollution in Puget Sound Sediments Changing
OLYMPIA, Washington, August 16, 2005 (ENS) - Toxic metals are declining in Puget Sound sediments while chemicals known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are increasing in some locations, according to results of a long-term study just released by the Washington Department of Ecology.
Ecology scientists collected and tested sediments at 10 sites in Puget Sound for 12 years. The sites range from the Strait of Georgia at the north end down to a location in Budd Inlet near Olympia. They were selected to represent background conditions that are not directly influenced by an industrial or municipal wastewater discharges.
The decline in metals may be due to federal clean water and air regulations imposed in the early 1970s that have limited pollution discharges by industries and cities, according to Margaret Dutch, who led the study for Ecology.
In turn, the rise in PAHs may be due to increasing urbanization and vehicle use near Puget Sound. Other marine sediment experts agree with the theory, said Dutch.
"The findings support what we're seeing in other studies, that pollution from industries is decreasing while pollution from individual citizens and urban runoff is growing," said Ecology Director Jay Manning. "While individuals are affecting the environment more than ever before, it also means that each of us has more power to make things better."
Toxic metals enter the environment as wastes from industrial manufacturing, mining operations, combustion products and agricultural pesticides, while PAHs are formed by the incomplete burning of organic matter, including fossil fuels. They also are found in coal tar, crude oil, creosote and roofing tar.
PAHs can enter the environment from vehicles that discharge them into the atmosphere through exhaust emissions and onto roads and parking lots through oil and gasoline leaks. As the PAHs fall to the ground, stormwater runoff carries them into Puget Sound.
Parking lot sealants also may be a major source of PAHs in Puget Sound. Peter Van Metre, a U.S. Geological Survey scientist, said his agency measured large amounts of PAHs in runoff from parking lots that are coated with coal-tar-based and asphalt-based sealants.
"We have measured increases in PAHs in sediment cores in lakes and reservoirs in response to increasing urbanization and vehicle use. In line with Ecology's findings, our studies across the nation show similar trends in sediments. Metals are declining while PAHs are rising," said Metre.
Dutch said PAHs tend to bind to sediments and sink to the bottom. They can be toxic and cause cancer in marine life, including producing liver lesions and tumors in fish that live on or near the sediments. PAHs also can change the growth rates and behavior of sediment-dwelling invertebrates.
As a part of the study, called "Temporal Monitoring of Puget Sound Sediments: Results of the Puget Sound Ambient Monitoring Program, 1989-2000," Ecology scientists studied the size of sediment grains, the content of organic carbons, the concentrations of more than 180 metals and organic contaminants, and the abundance of sediment dwelling invertebrates.
"When we examine changes over time in sediment chemistry and changes in the communities of small animals that live in the sediments, we get a better understanding of both the natural and human driven changes in Puget Sound's marine environment," Dutch said. "These changes may serve as red flags to highlight important trends or issues of concern for the Sound."
"We've made progress controlling toxic discharges that accumulate in sediments, yet each time we fix one problem in Puget Sound, we discover another," said Brad Ack, director of the Puget Sound Action Team, the state agency responsible for developing the cleanup and protection plan for Puget Sound. "PAHs and stormwater runoff are difficult new problems, directly tied to increasing population in the basin. Saving Puget Sound is ultimately about smarter land use and management of wastes in the basin. There are no easy solutions."
New York Scientists Track Humpback in Two Ocean Basins
NEW YORK, New York, August 16, 2005 (ENS) - For the first time ever, a genetic study has followed a single humpback whale from one ocean basin to another, adding to traditional notions of the migratory patterns of these majestic marine mammals in the process, according to researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), and New York University.
In a study published in the current issue of the Royal Society's "Biology Letters," a male humpback whale that was first sighted in Madagascar's Antongil Bay in 2000 was found in 2002 swimming off the coast of Loango National Park in Gabon - on the other side of the African continent.
"While the movement of whales from one ocean to another has always been a possibility, it's quite difficult to track in the wild," said WCS researcher Dr. Cristina Pomilla, lead author of the study. "This study demonstrates the ability of molecular technologies to confirm the movements of an individual whale between ocean basins."
The study examined DNA samples extracted from skin biopsies collected from whales in the wintering grounds of both the Indian and South Atlantic Oceans for evidence of inter-oceanic exchange of individuals.
Using a method of genetic capture-recapture of genotypes constructed of microsatellite markers, the researchers identified an individual whale sampled in Gabonese waters in 2002 that had been first seen and sampled with its mother in Madagascar waters in 2000.
Pomilla and her colleague, Dr. Howard Rosenbaum of WCS and AMNH, suspect that the whale could have been a three to four year old juvenile at the time of the second encounter with researchers.
The only other documentation of individual humpback whales moving from one ocean basin to another dates back to when the species still was hunted commercially. Two whales that were marked off western Australia, in the Indian Ocean basin, were later killed off the coast of eastern Australian, in the Pacific Ocean.
The identification of individual whales moving between ocean basins will help inform a number of conservation activities relating to humpback whales, including how these populations are defined, studied and managed.
Humpback whales were hunted commercially until the International Whaling Commission protected the species globally in 1966.
"These findings will help us improve our understanding of how populations of whales are connected, both genetically and even culturally, in the form of the haunting songs that this species is well known for," said Rosenbaum. "In particular, inter-oceanic migration data will help us to better evaluate the current international management procedures for humpback whales."
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