AmeriScan: May 21, 2007

* * *

State Tailpipe Standards Could Limit Warming, If Allowed

WASHINGTON, DC, May 21, 2007 (ENS) - Tailpipe standards already in place in 12 states would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 400 million metric tons by 2020 – a reduction equivalent to taking 74 million of today's cars off the road for a year, finds a new report released today by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, U.S. PIRG.

Passenger vehicles are the second largest source of global warming emissions nationwide, second only to power plants.

U.S. PIRG's report analyzes government data and non-profit studies to estimate the reduction in global warming emissions, reduction in oil consumption, and consumer savings that would result from the global warming emission standards for cars and SUVs that have been adopted by 12 states.

U.S. PIRG estimates that the 12 state standards could reduce gasoline consumption by as much as 8.3 billion gallons per year by 2020 – as much as is consumed by all the vehicles in Florida in a year - and would enable consumers to save up to $25.8 billion annually at the pump in 2020.

The report comes in advance of a public hearing Tuesday in Arlington, Virginia that will be held by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, to determine whether to give states the green light to reduce greenhouse gases from cars and SUVs.

"Cars and SUVs are a massive source of global warming pollution," said Emily Figdor, U.S. PIRG's federal global warming program director. "As the Bush administration spins its wheels and delays action on global warming, the states are putting real solutions to work. States must be allowed to fight global warming."

If the additional six states that are considering the policy do adopt the standards, U.S. PIRG estimates that the total global warming emission reductions would grow to 536 million metric tons by 2020, the equivalent to taking 101 million of today's cars off the road for a year.

In late 2004, California adopted the first standards requiring cars and light-duty trucks to limit emissions that contribute to global warming.

Since then, 11 other states - Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington - have adopted the tailpipe standards.

EPA has held for 18 months on California's request for a waiver under the Clean Air Act, which EPA has routinely issued more than 50 times in the last 40 years, says U.S. PIRG. This delay has had the effect of blocking implementation of the emission standards in California and other states.

In response to the U.S. PIRG report, California Secretary for Environmental Protection Linda Adams said, "California has a long history of environmental leadership, setting aggressive goals to clean our air with well-crafted regulations that have inspired the development of new clean technologies to reduce vehicle emissions. These standards will provide a tremendous reduction in California's greenhouses gases and are an essential part of the state's efforts to reduce emissions that contribute to global warming."

The EPA is holding two public hearings on the waiver request – one tomorrow in Arlington and the second next week in Sacramento, California.

The EPA scheduled the hearings and opened a public comment period on the issue after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled April 2 that the Clean Air Act gives the EPA the authority to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from cars.

* * *

Farmers Worry About Genetically Modified Rice Approval

WASHINGTON, DC, May 21, 2007 (ENS) - The National Farmers Union expressed "great concern" over today's approval by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service, APHIS, to allow Ventria Bioscience to plant rice that is genetically modified to produce pharmaceuticals in Kansas.

The decision "poses a potential risk to the American food supply," said the National Farmers Union, NFU, which represents 250,000 farm and ranch families in all U.S. states.

"America's farmers have suffered the economic consequences of two major instances when unapproved genetically modified rice entered the food supply in the past year," said NFU President Tom Buis.

Ventria Bioscience, a biotech company based in Sacramento, California, is developing a product made from genetically engineered rice that helped reduce the duration of diarrhea in children by 30 percent, as part of an oral rehydration solution. Childhood diarrhea is the second leading killer of children, according to the World Health Organization.

Last September, Kansas and Ventria officials agreed to establish a bioprocessing facility for plant-made pharmaceuticals in Junction City.

Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius said, "I welcome Ventria Bioscience to Kansas and look forward to their contributions to the health of children worldwide."

The facility will process Ventria's biotech rice. Proteins extracted from the rice will be incorporated into oral rehydration solutions to address childhood diarrhea. Ventria is also developing other products using these proteins. The rice itself is discarded.

Farmers are expected to be among the project's major beneficiaries, as those who grow the rice that supplies the facility can earn a premium compared to their next most lucrative crop, said Kansas Agriculture Secretary Adrian Polansky.

"This is as an important development for Kansas farmers, who stand to benefit from the additional income," Polansky said. "They also have the satisfaction of knowing they are helping provide affordable healthcare products to children who desperately need it."

Buis said National Farmers Union is concerned that the Ventria Bioscience's proposal does not specifically address the necessary safety precautions for transit of the rice.

He said that a significant risk may exist to all crops and soils neighboring the transportantion route.

Buis said that despite Kansas' recent devastating tornadoes and disastrous flooding, part of APHIS' response to official comments was that "extreme weather events are unlikely to occur in the area of the field trial."

"Until USDA and FDA improve oversight and regulation of pharma crops, NFU will remain extremely concerned about pharma commodity production based on economic, environmental, food safety and liability risks to both producers and consumers," Buis said.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved the rice-grown drugs due to potentially hazardous side effects. "This lack of approval means Ventria Bioscience does not have a sufficient market," said Buis, "thus the production of this crop appears to provide no benefit to Kansas farmers or the economy."

* * *

Wildlife Conservation Underfunded by $1 Billion

WASHINGTON, DC, May 21, 2007 (ENS) - At least $1 billion in new and greater funding is needed to fully conserve America's wildlife, estimates Teaming with Wildlife, a coalition of more than 5,000 conservation organizations.

Today, less than $200 million is focused specifically on preventing wildlife from becoming endangered, supplied mostly by the federally funded State Wildlife Grants Program.

While Congress designated today "Endangered Species Day," to celebrate America's commitment to protecting and recovering the nation's endangered species, biologists say more needs to be done.

"Climate change, water pollution, urban sprawl and other environmental problems are leading to a decline in wildlife health," said Naomi Edelson, Teaming with Wildlife director at the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. "We've got to act now to actually prevent wildlife from becoming endangered, and that takes money."

The Teaming with Wildlife Coalition of state fish and wildlife agencies, wildlife biologists, hunters and anglers, birdwatchers, hikers, nature-based businesses and other conservationists is working to support legislation, including several new climate change bills, that will dedicate greater and more reliable funding to the wildlife conservation priorities in the state wildlife action plans.

"Global warming is the overarching threat to wildlife and habitat in America" said Larry Schweiger, president of the National Wildlife Federation. "We need investments to protect wildlife and action to dramatically cut global warming pollution."

Completed in 2006, each state wildlife action plan contains information on low and declining populations of wildlife, their habitats, threats, and the conservation actions that must be taken to prevent them from becoming endangered.

Individually, the action plans establish a set of conservation actions for each state, but together they represent a blueprint for conservation on a regional and national scale.

Teaming with Wildlife has doubled its membership, growing to over 5,000 organizations in the past year, in a show of support for new funding for the implementation of every state's wildlife action plan.

State fish and wildlife agencies hold the legal responsibility for managing the health of wildlife. Their budgets rely on user fees from hunting and fishing licenses and federal excise taxes on hunting and fishing gear. These fees total about $1 billion annually for the state agencies.

But recently hunting and angling have declined, and the financial squeeze placed on the state agencies has been compounded by the growing environmental pressures facing wildlife.

Bill Geer, policy initiatives manager for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership said that while there is some funding available to manage species that are hunted and fished and some for wildlife on the brink of extinction, there is very little left for the remaining 80 percent of wildlife species.

"It is this majority of species that are most vulnerable and may become the endangered species of the future," Geer said.

"An additional billion dollars from combined federal, state, and private sources is a small price to pay for healthy wildlife, clean air and clean water," said Matt Hogan, executive director of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.

"With this funding, state fish and wildlife agencies and conservation organizations can work together to take proactive measures to prevent wildlife from becoming endangered," Hogan said, "and that actually saves us wildlife and taxpayers' dollars."

To learn more about Teaming with Wildlife, visit www.teaming.com To learn more about the state wildlife action plans, visit http://www.wildlifeactionplans.org .

* * *

Pennsylvania Governor Challenges EPA Solvent Exemptions

HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania, May 21, 2007 (ENS) - The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection announced Friday it has filed a legal challenge to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Air Emissions Standards on halogenated solvent cleaning.

The petition for review of the rule on the hazardous air pollutant was filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit.

The final rule, published May 3 in the Federal Register, exempts three industry sectors from new standards that would require emission reductions of trichloroethylene, TCE, and other degreaser solvents. The three sectors are aerospace, narrow tube manufacturers, and facilities that use continuous web-cleaning and halogenated solvent cleaning machines.

"I believe the EPA did not adequately consider public health risks when establishing new air emissions standards for TCE, nor did they take into account the reasonable, economically-feasible and expedient measures that are available to the narrow tube industry to reduce emissions,” said Governor Ed Rendell, who directed the DEP to challenge this action.

The EPA’s amendments to the air toxics standards affect the halogenated solvent cleaning industry.

The new rule caps emissions of methylene chloride, perchloroethylene and trichloroethylene, which are solvents used in cleaning machines that remove soils like grease, oil, wax, carbon deposits, flux and tar from metal, plastic, fiberglass, printed circuit boards and other surfaces.

But the EPA decided to exempt the three industry sectors from the new rules based on industry estimates of the costs associated with reducing emissions and the technical feasibility and time to comply, ruling that current emission levels for TCE and other degreasers is an acceptable health risk.

"Exempting these industries from more stringent emission standards fails to protect the well-being of our people, our communities and our economy," said the governor.

Governor Rendell wrote a letter to EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson on April 23 objecting to the agency’s reasons for the exemption.

The letter outlined how stronger emissions standards for degreasing processes are feasible and affordable as evidenced by the ongoing voluntary reductions by narrow tube manufacturing facilities in Montgomery County. Depending on industry processes, TCE emission reductions of 30 to 90 percent can be accomplished by use of carbon absorbers or material reformulation.

"Contrary to the argument that reductions in TCE emissions will place an unfair burden on the narrow tube industry, we are seeing voluntary reductions by manufacturers in Montgomery County that can be realized within a year," said the governor. "That calls into question the EPA’s evaluation of the facts about this industry."

* * *

Wildfire Forces Cancellation of Florida Folk Festival

WHITE SPRINGS, Florida, May 21, 2007 (ENS) - The Florida Department of Environmental Protection's Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park today announced the cancellation of the Florida Folk Festival due to danger from an enormous wildfire nearby.

Scheduled for May 25–27, the three-day music and arts festival is cancelled because of concerns for visitor safety due to the uncertainty of wildfire and air quality conditions in the surrounding area.

A huge fire is burning in and near the Okefenokee Swamp, which straddles the state line between Georgia and Florida.

For logistical purposes, fire officials are calling the part of the fire in Florida the Florida Bugaboo Fire and the part in Georgia the Big Turnaround Complex. In reality, it is single, continuous expanse of burning timber, swamp land, grass, and scrubland. The blaze covers some 400,000 acres and while it is considered 90 percent contained in Florida, fire officials say it is only 45 percent contained on the Georgia side of the line.

The leading edge of the Florida Bugaboo Fire is less than 15 miles from the park, and with conditions uncertain, the park is temporarily closed as of Saturday, May 19.

"Inviting an additional 10,000 people per day into a high-risk area would not only potentially endanger visitors and performers, but put a strain on the community's emergency response system as well as its natural resources," said Florida State Park Director Mike Bullock.

"The Florida Park Service fully intends to hold the event in 2008 and is reviewing the logistics involved in rescheduling the event in 2007," he said.

The Florida Folk Festival has historically depended on partner agencies from state, county and local cities and towns to assist in providing public safety measures. However, with current emergency fire conditions, the agencies are actively needed to provide support to wildfire response efforts.

The decision to cancel the festival was made in consultation with the other agencies involved in the Bugaboo fire suppression and public safety issues.

Transportation is also impacted by periodic closing of major roads including I-75 and I-10. These closings and re-routing of traffic stretch the limit of the local roads and the attendance of the festival by more than 20,000 visitors would place an additional burden on the highway system.

* * *

New Process Generates Hydrogen from Aluminum Alloy

WEST LAFAYETTE, Indiana, May 21, 2007 (ENS) - A Purdue University engineer has developed a method that uses an aluminum alloy to extract hydrogen from water. The hydrogen can be used to power fuel cells or internal combustion engines, and the developer says the technique could be used to replace gasoline.

The method makes it unnecessary to store or transport hydrogen - two major challenges in creating a hydrogen economy, said Jerry Woodall, the professor of electrical and computer engineering at Purdue who invented the process.

"The hydrogen is generated on demand, so you only produce as much as you need when you need it," said Woodall, who presented research findings detailing how the system works during a recent energy symposium at Purdue.

The technology could be used to drive small internal combustion engines in various applications, including portable emergency generators, lawn mowers and chain saws. The process could, in theory, also be used to replace gasoline for cars and trucks, he said.

Hydrogen is generated spontaneously when water is added to pellets of the alloy, which is made of aluminum and a metal called gallium.

The researchers have shown how hydrogen is produced when water is added to a small tank containing the pellets. Hydrogen produced in such a system could be fed directly to an engine.

"When water is added to the pellets, the aluminum in the solid alloy reacts because it has a strong attraction to the oxygen in the water," Woodall said.

This reaction splits the oxygen and hydrogen contained in water, releasing hydrogen in the process.

The gallium is critical to the process because it hinders the formation of a skin normally created on aluminum's surface after oxidation. This skin usually acts as a barrier that prevents oxygen from reacting with aluminum.

Preventing formation of the skin allows the reaction to continue until all of the aluminum is used.

"No toxic fumes are produced," said Woodall, who was awarded the 2001 National Medal of Technology by President George W. Bush for his development of advanced transistors for cell phones and components in solar cells powering space modules like those used on the Mars rover.

Woodall said that because the technology makes it possible to use hydrogen instead of gasoline to run internal combustion engines it could be used for cars and trucks. In order for the technology to be economically competitive with gasoline, however, the cost of recycling aluminum oxide must be reduced, he said.

"Right now it costs more than $1 a pound to buy aluminum, and, at that price, you can't deliver a product at the equivalent of $3 per gallon of gasoline," Woodall said. Recycling aluminum is the key, he said.

The Purdue Research Foundation holds title to the primary patent, which has been filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and is pending. An Indiana startup company, AlGalCo LLC., has received a license for the exclusive right to commercialize the process.

The research has been supported by the Energy Center at Purdue's Discovery Park. "This is exactly the kind of project that suits Discovery Park. It's exciting science that has great potential to be commercialized," said mechanical engineering professor Jay Gore, associate dean of engineering for research and the Energy Center's interim director.

The hydrogen-generating technology paired with advanced fuel cells also represents a potential future method for replacing lead-acid batteries in applications such as golf carts, electric wheelchairs and hybrid cars.