With Brad Friedman & Desi Doyen...
By Desi Doyen on 2/9/2012, 2:59pm PT  

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IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Santorum down the rabbit hole; New nukes for the US; Clean energy breakthroughs: seaweed ethanol, highest efficiency solar panels ever, plastic-eating fungus; PLUS: 'Betty Crocker Solar Power Cake Powder' ... All that and more in today's Green News Report!

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Got comments, tips, love letters, hate mail? Drop us a line at GreenNews@BradBlog.com or right here at the comments link below. All GNRs are always archived at GreenNews.BradBlog.com.

IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Interior Dept drilling reg enforcement is ‘erratic’, ‘inadequate’; Green economy lost fewer jobs in Great Recession; Big Oil: record profits by pumping less gas; Sea to submerge Louisiana by 2100: study; Frustrated fracking co. begins eminent domain proceedings against homeowners; 9/11 experiment shows whales affected by human noise; Wind energy does not contribute to global warming ... PLUS: Good news: Himalayas and nearby peaks have lost no ice in past 10 years: study ... and much, MUCH more! ...


  • GOP's Rick Santorum: Global Warming a "Hoax":
  • First New Nukes for the US in 30 Years:
    • First new nuclear reactors OK'd in over 30 years (CNN):
      The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved licenses to build two new nuclear reactors Thursday, the first authorized in over 30 years.
      Together they are expected to cost $14 billion and provide 2200 megawatts of power, according to a spokesman for Southern Co. That's enough to power 1 million homes.

      The plants are being built with the help of a conditional $8.3 billion loan guarantee from the Department of Energy. The loan guarantee is part of DOE's broader loan program that has been criticized for backing companies like Solyndra, the bankrupt maker of solar panels.

    • NRC approves first new nuclear plant in a generation (Reuters):
      Regulators on Thursday approved plans to build the first new nuclear power plant in more than 30 years in spite of objections of the panel's chairman who cited safety concerns stemming from Japan's disastrous 2011 Fukushima disaster. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission voted 4-1....
    • VIDEO: Interview with NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko (EnergyNow News, YouTube)
    • Feds: 'Unusual' wear on new tubes at CA nuke plant (AP):
      Unusual wear has been found on hundreds of tubes that carry radioactive water at Southern California's San Onofre Unit 2 nuclear plant, raising questions about the integrity of equipment the company installed in a multimillion-dollar makeover in 2009.

      The disclosure came two days after a tube leak at the plant's other unit prompted operators to shut down the reactor as a precaution. A tiny amount of radiation could have escaped, but officials say workers and the public were not endangered.

  • Breakthrough: Seaweed Biofuel:
    • Scientists claim major breakthrough in seaweed biofuel (RawStory):
      Energy experts believe that seaweed holds enormous potential as a biofuel alternative to coal and oil, and US-based scientists say they have unlocked the secret of turning its sugar into energy.

      A newly engineered microbe can do the work by metabolizing all of the major sugars in brown seaweed, potentially making it a cost-competitive alternative to petroleum fuel, said the report in the US journal Science. The team at the Berkeley, California-based Bio Architecture Labengineered a form of E. coli bacteria that can digest the seaweed’s sugars into ethanol, it said.

  • Innovation: Highest Efficiency Solar Panels Ever:
    • Highest Solar Panel Efficiency Achieved (Talking Points Memo IdeaLab):
      “This is the highest solar panel efficiency yet achieved and demonstrates Alta’s progress toward its objective of developing solar photovoltaic (PV) solutions that are competitive, without subsidies, with fossil fuels,” the company wrote in a press release.

      Toward that end, Alta Device’s highest-efficiency panel was created based on an innovative, even counter-intuitive idea about how to maximize energy conversion: The panels themselves emit fluorescent light, as TPM reported in November 2011, when the research was in its earlier stages.

  • Discovery: Plastic-Eating Fungus:
    • Fungi Discovered In The Amazon Will Eat Your Plastic (Fast Company):
      Polyurethane seemed like it couldn’t interact with the earth’s normal processes of breaking down and recycling material. That’s just because it hadn’t met the right mushroom yet.
      The fungi, Pestalotiopsis microspora, is the first anyone has found to survive on a steady diet of polyurethane alone and--even more surprising--do this in an anaerobic (oxygen-free) environment that is close to the condition at the bottom of a landfill.
  • Breakthrough: Solar Power Powder:
    • New MIT project could result in cheap solar for developing countries (Clean Energy Authority) [emphasis added]:
      The idea is based on work by Shuguang Zhang, a principal research scientist and associate director at MIT’s Center for Biomedical Engineering. Zhang derived photosystem-I (PS-I), the structures in plant cells that carry out photosynthesis and harnessed them to produce an electric current when exposed to light.
      “[T]he first ‘Betty Crocker Solar-Power Cake Mix’—which can only happen after more labs around the world join the currently very niche and "clique" efficiency/lifetime biophotovoltaic race...
    • New Solar Cell Pulls Electricity Out of Chopped-up Plants (Discover Magazine):
      The powder is mixed with plant matter such as grass clippings and crushed, and the resulting green goo is spread onto glass or metal substrate. Hook up wires to capture the electric current and that’s your solar panel.
    • Self-assembled photosystem-I biophotovoltaics on nanostructured TiO2 and ZnO (Nature)

'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (Stuff we didn't have time for in today's audio report)...

  • Report: Interior Department Enforcement Of Drilling Violations ‘Erratic’ And ‘Inadequate’ (Think Progress Green):
    Despite thousands of safety and environmental violations on public lands, oil and gas companies have been virtually unpunished, due to lax oversight and enforcement. A new report from House Democrats on the Natural Resources Committee finds that the Interior Department collected fines from a mere six percent of violations over the last 13 years.
  • Study: Green economy lost fewer jobs in U.S. recession (USA Today):
    The green economy lost fewer jobs than did the overall economy during the height of the United States' recent recession, finds a study out today on California's experiences.
  • Big Oil’s Banner Year: Higher Prices, Record Profits, Less Oil (Climate Progress):
    General economic theory holds that companies will produce more of a good if its price is higher, or if it receives subsidies. Funny that these rules didn’t seem to apply to Big Oil in 2011, when the highest oil price since 1864 and $2 billion in subsidies to the five largest oil companies—BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and Royal Dutch Shell—yielded lower oil production than in 2010. But these five oil companies combined made a record-high $137 billion in profits in 2011—up 75 percent from 2010—and have made more than $1 trillion in profits from 2001 through 2011. This exceeds the previous record of $136 billion in profits in 2008.
  • Rising sea level to submerge Louisiana coastline by 2100, study warns (Guardian UK):
    Scientists say between 10,000 and 13,500 square kilometres of coastal land around New Orleans will go underwater due to rising sea levels and subsidence

    A vast swath of the coastal lands around New Orleans will be underwater by the dawn of the next century because the rate of sediment deposit in the Mississippi delta can not keep up with rising sea levels, according to a study published today.

  • Fracking Co. Using Eminent Domain in Lieu of Homeowner Approval: And So It Begins (Madison County Voice):
    Despite assurances to the contrary to northern Pennsylvania landowners, Central New York Oil and Gas Company LLC (CNYOG), a subsidiary of Inergy LP of Kansas City, MO, began eminent domain proceedings against about half of the 150 property owners along a 39-mile, $250 million natural gas pipeline that had been approved by the federal government just days earlier. The high-pressure, 30-inch steel pipeline is intended to connect interstate pipelines with CNYOG’s gas storage facility in southern New York.
  • Unplanned 9/11 Analysis Links Noise, Whale Stress (AP):
    Unplanned experiment on oceans in post-9/11 silence links noise and whale stress

    An ocean experiment that was accidentally conducted amid the shipping silence after Sept. 11 has shown the first link between underwater noise and stress in whales, researchers reported Wednesday.

  • NYT: A Terrible Transportation Bill (Op-ed, New York Times):
    The list of outrages coming out of the House is long, but the way the Republicans are trying to hijack the $260 billion transportation bill defies belief. This bill is so uniquely terrible that it might not command a majority when it comes to a floor vote, possibly next week, despite Speaker John Boehner’s imprimatur. But betting on rationality with this crew is always a long shot. Here is a brief and by no means exhaustive list of the bill’s many defects....
  • Eco-friendly LEGOs made of sawdust and coffee (Inhabitat, via Grist)
  • How the 'windfarms increase climate change' myth was born (Guardian UK):
    Such is the viral nature of information flow on the internet, we can sometimes see myths and memes developing before our very eyes. Just such an example has occurred over recent days with the rather irresistible news that windfarms can "increase climate change".
  • From Gung-Ho to Uh-Oh: Charting the Government’s Moves on Fracking (Pro Publica)
  • The Himalayas and nearby peaks have lost no ice in past 10 years, study shows (Guardian UK):
    Meltwater from Asia's peaks is much less than previously estimated, but lead scientist says the loss of ice caps and glaciers around the world remains a serious concern.
  • "Global Warming Has Stopped"? How to Fool People Using "Cherry-Picked" Climate Data (Peter Gleick) [emphasis added]:
    The current favorite argument of those who argue that climate changes isn’t happening, or a problem, or worth dealing with, is that global warming has stopped.
    The problem with this argument is that it is false: global warming has not stopped and those who repeat this claim over and over are either lying, ignorant, or exhibiting a blatant disregard for the truth [also known as lying - Ed.].
  • Study: 'The Greater the Coverage of Climate Change, the Greater the Public Concern' (Climate Progress):
    Exclusive: "Exciting" Public Opinion Study Debunks Claim Al Gore Polarized the Climate Debate and Many Other Myths

    "The greater the quantity of media coverage of climate change, the greater the level of public concern."

  • Special Report: PEAK EVERYTHING (Bloomberg News) [emphasis added]:
    By 2030, The Global Middle Class Is Expected To Grow By Two-Thirds.

    That's 3 Billion More Shoppers. They'll All Want Access To Goods, Including Water, Wheat, Coffee and Oil. Is There Enough for Everybody?

    Can Business Satisfy Demand and Avoid Hitting 'Peak Everything?'

  • Russians Drill Into Ancient Lake Vostok Below Antarctic Glacier: (Washington Post):
    Russian scientists have drilled into the vast, dark and never- before-touched Lake Vostok 2.2 miles below the surface of Antarctica, the state-run Russian news agency RIA Novosti said Monday.
  • Essential Climate Science Findings:
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