AmeriScan: April 14, 2014

Conservation voters gather in Washington State (Photo by Washington Conservation Voters)


Getting Out the Green Vote, EPA’s Five-Year Plan, Frack-less in Michigan, Americans Like Ethanol, Los Angeles Loves Energy Star, Olestra Clears Toxins

New Coalition Leading Green Voters to the Polls … Climate Change Heads EPA’s Five-Year Strategic Plan … Michigan Eases Taxes for Frack-less Tight Oil Recovery … Poll: Americans Like Ethanol … Los Angeles Tops in Energy Star Buildings … Chips Made With Olestra Cause Drop in Body Toxins

New Coalition Leading Green Voters to the Polls

WASHINGTON, DC, April 14, 2014 (ENS) – League of Conservation Voters and the NRDC Action Fund announced today that they are forming a new alliance to grow an environmental majority that includes both Democrats and Republicans.

NRDC stands for the environmental advocacy nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council, the parent organization of the NRDC Action Fund, which is based in New York City, with offices in Washington, DC, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Beijing.

League of Conservation Voters, based in Washington, DC, is a political advocacy organization founded in 1969 by American environmentalist David Brower. LCV’s National Environmental Scorecard provides objective, factual information about the most important environmental legislation considered and the corresponding voting records of all members of Congress.

Conservation voters gather in Washington State (Photo by Washington Conservation Voters)

The two groups are creating LeadingGreen, a new alliance of the environmental and political communities to “maximize their policy engagement and political leverage on climate change,” the groups said in a statement today.

LeadingGreen aims to create a team that will unite “top donors and influencers at the intersection of policy and politics.” They intend to target “exactly the right pressure points to grow the environmental majority across party lines,” the groups said.

The groups will organize regional and/or national political donor summits to develop a unified strategy heading into each election cycle, and strengthen their advocacy efforts to influence key members of Congress.

With support from the NRDC Action Fund PAC, the alliance intends to expand LCV Action Fund’s existing GiveGreen program with a goal of raising or contributing $5 million in 2014 for environmental champions. This amount is separate from independent expenditure spending.

LeadingGreen will provide regular opportunities for influential leaders to engage decision makers on issues that matter and offer opportunities for influential political donors to organize around a common agenda, prioritize major issues, educate elected leaders and thought leaders on our major issues, and get informed on the power of donating through GiveGreen to elect environmental champions.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2014. All rights reserved.


Climate Change Heads EPA’s Five-Year Strategic Plan

WASHINGTON, DC, April 14, 2014 (ENS) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today issued its Strategic Plan for the five years 2014-2018.

The plan envisions what the agency calls “a new era of partnerships with state and local governments, tribes, federal agencies, businesses, and industry leaders to achieve environmental benefits in a pragmatic, collaborative way.”

U.S. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy on America Recycles Day, Nov. 15, 2013 (Photo courtesy U.S. EPA)

“EPA will address the increasingly complex array of environmental challenges we face by advancing a rigorous research and development agenda that informs and supports our policy and decision making with timely and innovative technology and sustainable solutions,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.

“We are heeding President Obama’s call for action on climate change, the biggest challenge for our generation and those to come by building strong partnerships at home and around the world.”

“We are working to mitigate this threat by reducing carbon pollution and other greenhouse gas emissions and by focusing on efficiency improvements in homes, buildings and appliances,” McCarthy said.

The five strategic goals in EPA’s plan include:

•           Addressing climate change and improving air quality;
•           Protecting America’s waters;
•           Cleaning up communities and advancing sustainable development;
•           Ensuring the safety of chemicals and preventing pollution; and
•           Protecting human health and the environment by enforcing laws and assuring compliance.

The agency will continue to deliver significant health benefits to the American public through improved air quality and reduced emissions of toxic pollutants, and will take action to keep communities safe and healthy by reducing risks associated with exposure to toxic chemicals in commerce, indoor and outdoor environments, products, and food.

The agency will continue efforts to improve water quality, given the nation’s significant water infrastructure needs, focusing on common sense, flexible approaches that rely on sustainable solutions, such as green infrastructure, and build resiliency to help us adapt to the effects of a changing climate.

The plan prioritizes environmental justice, continuing to focus on urban, rural, and economically disadvantaged communities, to ensure that everyone, regardless of age, race, economic status, or ethnicity, has access to clean water, clean air, and the opportunity to live, work and play in healthy communities.

The EPA developed the FY 2014-2018 Strategic Plan in accordance with the Government Performance and Results Act Modernization Act of 2010.

Reflecting the agency’s interest in reaching out to stakeholders and communities, the EPA requested input on a draft plan last winter from over 800 organizations and individuals and issued a Federal Register Notice to solicit broad public feedback. The EPA incorporated suggestions and comments received in the final Plan.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2014. All rights reserved.


Michigan Eases Taxes for Frack-less Tight Oil Recovery

KALAMAZOO, Michigan, April 14, 2014 (ENS) – Michigan has a new law that encourages the recovery of oil that is difficult to extract from existing wells without the environmentally stressful process of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

The law reduces taxes paid by companies that extract the oil using carbon dioxide gas that has been made into a liquid. Operators take the liquid CO2 and inject it 2,000 feet underground to flush out oil left behind by conventional drilling. The liquid CO2 pushes the trapped oil toward other wells where it can be captured and pumped to the surface.

This method has the added environmental benefit of permanently trapping the carbon dioxide in underground wells rather than releasing it into the atmosphere, where it contributes to climate change.

Tax breaks under the legislation does not include the process of fracking, which involves the high-pressure injection of chemical-laced water into the depleted wells.

“Michigan is committed to the wise use of its natural resources,” said Lt. Governor Brian Calley, who signed the bill into law April 1 while Governor Rick Snyder was in China on a trade mission. “Providing incentives to fully develop old, traditional oil fields benefits consumers and our economy. Protecting our environment while fueling our economy is a win for everyone.”

The process is more expensive than traditional methods, but is considered to be more environmentally friendly it uses CO2. Currently there are eight such projects under way in Michigan, which have combined to produce about 1.5 million barrels of oil since the first project began in 1997.

An additional 200 million to 350 million barrels of oil could potentially be recovered through this process, which is 30 to 50 times Michigan’s current annual production.

The projects can only be undertaken if approved by the state Department of Environmental Quality.

Calley signed the bill at Western Michigan University’s Michigan Geological Repository for Research and Education. MGRRE, a primary source for geological research in the state, was instrumental in the development of the CO2-based enhanced oil recovery technology.

Calley also signed three additional bills that promote the use of enhanced oil recovery by providing for the exercise of eminent domain when laying pipelines to transport carbon dioxide.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2014. All rights reserved.


Poll: Americans Like Ethanol

WASHINGTON, DC, April 14, 2014 (ENS) – For the third year in a row, Americans, by an overwhelming majority, support the Renewable Fuel Standard and other key federal initiatives supporting the expanded use of ethanol.

A new national poll conducted by American Viewpoint found 65 percent of adults support the nationwide Renewable Fuel Standard, while just 26 percent are opposed. Eight percent said they didn’t know.

fuel pumps
Ethanol fuel pumps dispense E30 (30% ethanol) and E85 (85% ethanol. (Photo courtesy USDA)

Support for the Renewable Fuel Standard, RFS, has been steadily rising. In 2013, 64 percent of those polled supported the policy, up from 61 percent in 2012.

The existing renewable fuels standard requires a certain amount of the fuel produced each year to come from ethanol, biodiesel and other renewable sources that are not fossil fuels to reduce foreign oil dependence and greenhouse gas emissions.

The American Petroleum Institute has been campaigning to repeal the Renewable Fuel Standard since last summer with a TV, radio, and print ad campaign on the dangers of the RFS, calling it an “unworkable mandate.”

The American Petroleum Institute and the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers submitted a joint petition to the U.S. EPA, dated August 13, 2013, on behalf of their members requesting a partial waiver of the 2014 required biofuel volumes under the RFS.

The EPA has yet to issue the 2014 RFS volumes, but they are expected to be somewhat reduced from the volumes required by law.

Renewable Fuel Association President and CEO Bob Dinneen commented, “It is telling that support for the RFS continues to grow in spite of the relentless attacks on ethanol and the RFS financed by Big Oil’s deep pockets.”

“Repeatedly Americans have decisively said they place a premium on energy independence, job creation, and a cleaner environment. For these reasons and more, Americans overwhelmingly support the RFS for its ability to strengthen this great nation,” said Dinneen.

“Members of Congress and the Obama Administration should review this data before taking action to reduce or eliminate a program with broad national appeal and tangible energy and environmental benefits,” Dinneen said.

The poll was conducted by phone with a sample size of 1,000 adults. Roughly 40 percent of respondents were contacted by cell phone.

Pollsters also posed this question. “As you may know, oil companies receive four to five billion dollars in government subsidies and special tax treatment and incentives for things like equipment depreciation, oil depletion allowances, and foreign investment tax credits for taxes they pay in foreign countries. Do you favor or oppose these tax incentives?

Just 22 percent of respondents favored these tax incentives, while 66 percent were opposed. Eleven percent said they didn’t know.

Linda DiVall, president of American Viewpoint, said, “Despite the barrage of negative advertising targeting ethanol recently, ethanol’s image has held strong, largely unchanged from last year. More telling is the fact that the unfavorable rating of oil companies has climbed five percentage points to 47 percent, with a plurality of Americans rating oil companies unfavorably.”

“That rise in negative opinion of oil companies certainly manifests itself in the 66 percent of adults polled who desire a level playing field among fuels and resent the subsidies and special treatment oil companies have held onto at the expense of the American taxpayer,” DiVall said.

Expanding on the polling results, Dinneen continued, “Americans see great value in investing in the next generation of fuel, cellulosic ethanol, and they support the idea of an open fuel standard which encourages the manufacturing of cars that run on any number of alternatives to petroleum. In fact, Americans appear to have a visceral dislike for the billions and billions of dollars in government subsidies and special tax treatment that Big Oil has enjoyed for 100 years.”

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2014. All rights reserved.


Los Angeles Tops in Energy Star Buildings

WASHINGTON, DC, April 14, 2014 (ENS) – Los Angeles tops the list of the 25 U.S. metropolitan areas with the most Energy Star certified buildings. The cities on this list demonstrate the economic and environmental benefits achieved by facility owners and managers when they apply a proven approach to energy efficiency to their buildings.

The Top 10 cities on the list are: Los Angeles; Washington, DC; Atlanta; New York; San Francisco; Chicago; Dallas; Denver; Philadelphia; and Houston.

Los Angeles has remained the top city since 2008 while Washington, DC continues to hold onto second place for the fifth consecutive year. Atlanta moved up from the number five to number three. For the first time, Philadelphia entered the top 10, ranking ninth.

“Not only are the Energy Star top 25 cities saving money on energy costs and increasing energy efficiency, but they are promoting public health by decreasing greenhouse gas emissions from commercial buildings,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “Every city has an important role to play in reducing emissions and carbon pollution, and increasing energy efficiency to combat the impacts of our changing climate.”

Energy use in commercial buildings accounts for 17 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions at a cost of more than $100 billion per year.

Energy Star certified office buildings cost $0.50 less per square foot to operate than average office buildings, and use nearly two times less energy per square foot than average office buildings, according to EPA data.

The data also show that more than 23,000 buildings across America earned EPA’s Energy Star certification by the end of 2013. These buildings saved more than $3.1 billion on utility bills and prevented greenhouse gas emissions equal to the annual electricity use from 2.2 million homes.

First released in 2008, the list of cities with the most Energy Star certified buildings demonstrates how cities across America, with help from Energy Star, are embracing energy efficiency as a simple and effective way to save money and prevent pollution.

Commercial buildings that earn EPA’s Energy Star must perform in the top 25 percent of similar buildings nationwide and must be independently verified by a licensed professional engineer or a registered architect.

Energy Star certified buildings use an average of 35 percent less energy and are responsible for 35 percent less carbon dioxide emissions than typical buildings.

Many types of commercial buildings can earn the Energy Star, including office buildings, K-12 schools, hotels, and retail stores.

Products, homes and buildings that earn the Energy Star label prevent greenhouse gas emissions by meeting strict energy efficiency requirements set by the U.S. EPA. In 2013 alone, Americans, with the help of Energy Star, saved an estimated $30 billion on their utility bills and prevented greenhouse gas emissions equal to the annual electricity use of more than 38 million homes.

Over 1.5 million new homes and 23,000 commercial buildings and industrial plants have earned the Energy Star label.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2014. All rights reserved.


Chips Made With Olestra Cause Drop in Body Toxins

CINCINNATI, Ohio, April 14, 2014 (ENS) – According to a clinical trial led by University of Cincinnati researchers, a snack food ingredient called olestra has been found to speed up the removal of toxins in the body.

Results are reported in the April edition of the “Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry.”

Pringles contain olestra (Photo by Felipe Ribeiro)

The trial demonstrated that olestra – a zero-calorie fat substitute found in low-calorie snack foods such as Pringles chips – could reduce the levels of serum polychlorinated biphenyls, PCBs, in people who had been exposed to these chemicals.

High levels of PCBs in the body are associated with an increase in hypertension and diabetes.

“The findings showed that the rate of PCB disappearance from the participants that ate olestra was markedly faster during the one-year trial than that before the trial,” said principal investigator Ronald Jandacek, PhD, an adjunct professor in the department of pathology and laboratory medicine at the University of Cincinnati’s College of Medicine.

“Olestra is a fat that passes through the body and remarkably it has revealed a potential health benefit of removing PCBs. Our early work with animal studies predicted that we would see this effect in people,” Jandacek says of the clinical trial.

Olestra, sold under the brand name Olean, is a nonabsorbable fat product that Procter & Gamble developed in collaboration with the University of Cincinnati. It was introduced in snack foods in 1996.

Early reports of indigestion issues, however, prompted reformulation of the product prior to its market entry. The Kellogg Company purchased the Pringles brand in 2012.

Twenty-eight residents Anniston, Alabama, who were known to have high levels of PCBs in their blood, participated in the year-long study.

Half of the participants consumed 12 Pringles a day made with vegetable oil, and the other half consumed 24 Pringles a day made with olestra. The serving sizes varied to control for calorie count.

The results showed that the half who ate the olestra chips had a PCB rate of decrease of eight percent, an eight-fold increase in the rate of removal prior to the study.
Participants who ate the chips made with vegetable oil had only a one percent increase in the rate of PCB removal.

“Olestra’s effect on PCB removal is apparently the result of solubilizing fat-soluble compounds like PCBs in the intestine and the solubilization reduces absorption of these compounds into the body,” said Jandacek.

He was the principal investigator on a 2005 study that found that olestra removed toxins from animals.

Jandacek was first introduced to researchers and community advocates studying the health of residents in Anniston in 2008. The Alabama town was once the main production site for a factory that made PCBs.

Since Jandacek had already facilitated the use of olestra in the removal of PCBs from animals and a patient in Australia, he joined with the clinical research group of James Heubi, MD, of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, University of Cincinnati’s Department of Pediatrics and the University of Cincinnati Center for Clinical and Translational Science and Training. Researchers at the nearby Jacksonville State University College of Nursing and also at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta also participated in the study.

The trial was supported by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Center for Research Resources and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, all part of the National Institutes of Health.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2014. All rights reserved.


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