AmeriScan: May 14, 2007

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Feds Offer $60 Million to Jumpstart Nuclear Fuel Recycling

WASHINGTON, DC, May 14, 2007 (ENS) - The Department of Energy, DOE, will pay up to $60 million by the end of 2008 to nuclear industry experts who can provide the conceptual design of an initial nuclear fuel recycling center and advanced recycling reactor as part of the Bush administration's Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, GNEP.

Under GNEP, President George W. Bush plans to have nations with "secure, advanced nuclear capabilities" provide fresh fuel and recover used fuel to other nations who agree to use nuclear energy for power generation purposes only.

This closed fuel cycle model requires development and deployment of technologies that enable recycling and consumption of long-lived highly radioactive waste.

The $60 million in design funding will be disbursed subject to appropriation from Congress.

Stressing that nuclear power is "safe, environmentally sensitive, and affordable," Energy Deputy Secretary Clay Sell announced the funding while addressing the United States Energy Association in Washington, DC on May 9.

"By further engaging engineering and design experts in the nuclear industry, we can spur radical development of new nuclear recycling technologies that are more proliferation-resistant and economically attractive," said Sell.

In addition to the conceptual design studies, the recipients of funding will develop technology development roadmaps to describe the state of the current technology, perform a technology "gap" analysis, and define the methods and plans to acquire technology needed to achieve the GNEP goals.

Business plans will address how the market may facilitate DOE plans to develop and commercialize the advanced fuel cycle technologies and facilities.

Communications plans will address the dissemination of scientific, technical, and practical information relating to nuclear energy and closing the nuclear fuel cycle.

In a factsheet on GNEP, the Energy Department says the program includes, "An aggressive plan to manage spent nuclear fuel and nuclear waste in the U.S., including permanent geologic disposal at Yucca Mountain."

GNEP technologies yet to be developed will "change the characteristics and, potentially, significantly reduce the toxicity of spent fuel and nuclear waste to be disposed of in Yucca Mountain," the Energy Department says. "This will make disposal less complex and potentially extend the capacity of Yucca Mountain for generations to come."

For more information on GNEP, log on to: http://www.gnep.energy.gov/gnepProgram.html

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Congress Combats Illegal Logging in Peru, Panama

WASHINGTON, DC, May 14, 2007 (ENS) - Members of Congress and the Bush administration reached agreement late last week on labor and environmental provisions to be incorporated in trade agreements with Peru and Panama. The deal includes measures to address the imports of illegally logged timber from Peru's Amazon rainforest.

Experts with environmental groups working on logging issues say that these measures could signal a new zero-tolerance policy from Congress towards the illegal timber trade.

"These timber measures make an important statement that free trade should not mean illegal trade," said Kris Genovese, associate international counsel with Defenders of Wildlife.

Defenders of Wildlife, the Natural Resources Defense Council, NRDC, and the Environmental Investigation Agency, EIA, among others, have worked for years to stop illegal logging and trade in illegally cut timber because of the damage it does to rainforests and local communities.

The groups say that illegal logging has been particularly pervasive in the remote Amazon areas of Peru, and is driven by demand from the United States.

In addition to requiring stronger protections against illegal logging in Peru, Congressional negotiators insisted on measures that would give greater control to the U.S. Customs Service to stop illegal cedar and mahogany at the U.S. border. Peruvian cedar and mahogany are in great demand in the United States.

"These provisions set a real precedent for addressing illegal logging through our trade agreements," said Allan Thornton, president of EIA.

Congress also is currently considering the Legal Timber Protection Act, H.R. 1497, a bill recently introduced in the House that would make it illegal to import timber into the United States that was logged illegally in any foreign country.

"We are pleased to see this strong leadership from the Ways and Means Committee on the illegal timber trade, and urge Congress to remain vigilant to ensure that the trade provisions are fully implemented and enforced," said Ari Hershowitz, director of the Latin American BioGems campaign for NRDC.

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Yahoo! Launches Green Eco-site and Greenest City Challenge

NEW YORK, New York, May 14, 2007 (ENS) - In New York City's Times Square, Yahoo! Inc. issued a challenge today in search of the greenest city in America. The winning city, to be announced on June 8, will be rewarded with a fleet of hybrid taxi cabs or the equivalent cash donation, to be dedicated toward city greening projects.

Yahoo co-founder David Filo, joined by actor Matt Dillon and Global Green USA CEO Matt Petersen, introduced the Greenest City challenge as part of a new Yahoo! site "Be a Better Planet" online at: http://better.yahoo.com/planet.

To kick off the program, Yahoo! is donating a fleet of hybrid taxis to New York City, recently calculated to produce one percent of all U.S. greenhouse gases.

By using the hybrid taxis, New York will "save enough gas to drive a hybrid vehicle 56 times around the Earth," Yahoo claimed today in a statement.

"Americans everywhere are taking notice of the increasingly dire predictions around global climate change," said Filo. "We want to make it easy for consumers to do something, as well as help them build enduring habits that can truly make a difference. We believe many small individual actions can add up to significant change."

The Greenest City challenge coincides with the introduction of Yahoo! Green at: http://green.yahoo.com, a new site that intends to be a one-stop resource for environmentally-concerned people with the latest news, tips, and ways to take action.

The site features a pledge that allows consumers to choose from a menu of actions to reduce their personal carbon emissions and see the collective impact of everyone who participates.

In the near future, it will include environmental headlines from Yahoo! News; featured content from Global Green USA, Environmental Defense, NRDC, and Lime; blog feeds from renewable energy expert Amory Lovins, Environmental Defense's chief scientist Bill Chameides and EcoGeek; green shopping tips; the 18Seconds.org site; content from Yahoo! Answers, Yahoo! Groups, and the Yahoo! Autos Green Center, with more content and features to come.

"Part of reducing global warming pollution can be as simple as turning off the lights when not being used, changing to compact fluorescent light bulbs and walking or using public transportation more often," said Dillon.

Dillon will ask the question "What are the most effective yet simple ways people can save energy?" on Yahoo! Answers, inviting people to share their thoughts and offer advice.

"Our buildings and transportation are two of the greatest contributors to global warming," said Petersen of Global Green USA, at http://www.globalgreen.org. The national environmental organization is the U.S. affiliate of Mikhail Gorbachev's Green Cross International.

"Across the country, cities are leading the fight against global warming," said Petersen, "through green policies, sustainable buildings, and solar power - while our federal government fails to act. We applaud Yahoo! for mobilizing its users to shift their actions, and in turn further reduce the impact of our cities on the environment."

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News Corporation to Make Operations Carbon Neutral

NEW YORK, New York, May 14, 2007 (ENS) - Media mogul Rupert Murdoch has started leading his News Corporation down a greener path. Murdoch said his will be the first global media company to commit to becoming carbon neutral.

All News Corporation business units will become carbon neutral by 2010 through energy efficiency, buying renewable power and offsetting otherwise unavoidable emissions, Murdoch said in an address to employees in New York on Wednesday.

"If we are to connect with our audiences on this issue, we must first get our own house in order," said Murdoch, who has just purchased a hybrid car for his own use.

"We have just begun this effort, and we have a long way to go. Our global reach gives us an unprecedented opportunity to inspire action from all corners of the world. The climate problem will not be solved without mass participation by the general public everywhere," he said.

News Corporation is a diversified entertainment company with operations in eight industry segments - filmed entertainment, television, cable network programming, direct broadcast satellite television, magazines and inserts, newspapers, and book publishing.

For fiscal 2006, the corporation's carbon footprint was 641,150 tons of carbon dioxide equivalents and was measured across the 52 countries in which it operates.

As a start, News Corporation has joined The Climate Group, an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing business and government leadership on climate change.

The corporation's MySpace has launched a channel dedicated to climate change at http://www.myspace.com/ourplanet

The Fox Entertainment Group has offered its employees an incentive to purchase or lease hybrid cars. And two of the corporation's other branches, News Digital Media in Australia and News America Marketing in the United States, are replacing vehicles in their fleets with hybrids.

The company's first LEED-certified building is under construction on the Fox studio lot in Los Angeles.

News International and HarperCollins UK have both entered into agreements to purchase renewable energy and will be carbon neutral by the end of this year.

An Australian by birth, Murdoch said he was persuaded to act in part by the current recordbreaking drought across Australia.

"Climate change poses clear, catastrophic threats," he said. "We may not agree on the extent, but we certainly can't afford the risk of inaction, and we must transform the way we use energy."

"Our audiences, hundreds of millions of people on five continents, care about this issue. Three quarters of the American public believes climate change is a serious problem, and in many other countries, developed and developing, the numbers are even higher," Murdoch said.

He acknowledged that there will always be journalists, including some at News Corporation companies, who are skeptical of climate change, which he called "natural and healthy."

"But the debate is shifting from whether climate change is really happening to how to solve it," Murdoch told his employees. "And when so many of the solutions make sense for us as a business, it is clear that we should take action not only as a matter of public responsibility, but because we stand to benefit."

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Glug and Toss Water Bottles Clog Landfills

WASHINGTON, DC, May 14, 2007 (ENS) - Bottled water is not only costly at the cash register, it is environmentally costly, according to a new report from the Worldwatch Institute.

Millions of tons of oil-derived plastics, mostly polyethylene terephthalate, PET, are used to make the water bottles, most of which are not recycled.

Each year, about two million tons of PET bottles end up in landfills in the United States, Worldwatch estimates. In 2005, the national recycling rate for PET was only 23.1 percent, far below the 39.7 percent rate achieved a decade earlier.

To add to the environmental bad news, excessive withdrawal of natural mineral or spring water to produce bottled water has threatened local streams and groundwater, and the product consumes significant amounts of energy in production and shipping.

"Bottled water may be an industry winner, but it's an environmental loser," says Ling Li, a fellow with the Institute's China Program who authored the update to the annual Worldwatch Vital Signs report.

"The beverage industry benefits the most from our bottled water obsession," said Li. "But this does nothing for the staggering number of the world's poor who see safe drinking water as at best a luxury, and at worst, an unattainable goal."

An estimated 3550 percent of urban dwellers in Africa and Asia lack adequate access to safe potable water, according to Worldwatch's State of the World 2007 report.

Bottled water can be between 240 and 10,000 times more expensive than tap water, Worldwatch says. In 2005, bottled water sales in the United States alone generated more than $10 billion in revenue.

Global consumption of bottled water more than doubled between 1997 and 2005, making it the world's fastest growing commercial beverage.

The United States remains the largest consumer of bottled water, but among the top 10 countries, India has nearly tripled its consumption, while China more than doubled its consumption between 2000 and 2005.

In the United States, regulations concerning bottled water are generally the same as for tap water, but are weaker for some microbial contaminants.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration permits bottled water to contain certain levels of fecal matter, whereas the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency does not allow any human waste in city tap water, the Worldwatch report points out.

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Bald Eagle Recovery Tribute to Rachel Carson

WASHINGTON, DC, May 14, 2007 (ENS) - There are more breeding bald eagles in the United States right now than at any time since World War II, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today.

Bald eagles in the lower 48 states have climbed from an all-time low of 417 nesting pairs in 1963 to an estimated new high of 9,789 breeding pairs today, the agency said.

The updated estimate is based on information gathered by the states in 2004 or later.

Minnesota tops the list with 1,312 pairs of eagles, followed by Florida with 1,133 pairs and Wisconsin with 1,065 pairs.

There are also eagles now breeding in the District of Columbia and the state of Vermont, which was the only state in the lower 48 which lacked eagles until the first eaglets hatched successfully in 2006.

The bald eagle, which is protected as a threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act, once was on the edge of extinction due to the widespread use of the pesticide DDT that thinned the shells of eagle eggs so they could not hatch.

For years after World War II, dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane, DDT, was used to control mosquitoes and agricultural pests. When it rained, the DDT would wash off the soil and into the waterways where it was absorbed by aquatic plants and animals. Fish ate the plants and animals, and eagles ate the fish.

When ingested, the chemical compound would build up in the fatty tissues of female eagles and prevent the formulation of calcium necessary to produce strong eggshells. Widespread reproductive failure and a steep decline in numbers followed.

Rachel Carson, a biologist and writer for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, became aware of the dangers of chemical pesticides including DDT, but was also aware of the controversy within the agricultural community which needed pesticides to support crop production.

Carson made the decision to write her controversial book "Silent Spring" documenting the dangers of DDT after years of research across the United States and Europe.

As a result of her research and the publication of Silent Spring in 1962, the federal government banned the use of DDT in 1972.

May 27, 2007 marks the 100th anniversary of Carson's birth. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says its proposed removal of the bald eagle from the federal list of threatened and endangered species is a fitting tribute.

In order to ensure the eagle will be protected upon delisting, the Service is working to finalize the definition of "disturb" and the bald eagle management guidelines under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.

Under terms of a court settlement agreement, the Service is to make a decision on delisting the bald eagle by June 29, 2007.