A new study shows that a ban on ozone-depleting chemicals has led to a slow recovery of the Earth’s protective ozone layer. Researchers say within the next 100 years, the ozone layer could be as strong as it was 25 years ago. But there’s still a lot of uncertainty about the recovery process. The GLRC’s Erin Toner reports:
A new study shows that a ban on ozone-depleting chemicals has led to a
slow recovery of the Earth’s protective ozone layer. Researchers say
within the next 100 years, the ozone layer could be as strong as it was 25
years ago. But there’s still a lot of uncertainty about the recovery process.
The GLRC’s Erin Toner reports:
The ozone layer protects the Earth from the harmful effects of ultraviolet
radiation, including skin cancer and damage to the environment. The
study’s authors say it shows a direct relationship between ozone recovery
and a ban on chlorofluorocarbons, which were used as a refrigerant.
University of Colorado Researcher Betsy Weatherhead says this is good
news, but people should still be careful.
“While ultraviolet levels are still high, and we expect them to be high for
at least the next 10 to 20, possibly 30 years, we have to be particularly
vigilant about protecting ourselves and our children against the harmful
aspects of UV.”
Weatherhead says ozone recovery faces some uncertainties… such as
rising global temperatures. She says that could stall recovery or lead to
record-low ozone levels.
Researchers are looking at ethanol from corn as an environmentally-friendly way to power fuel cells. However, some studies show corn-based ethanol takes more energy to produce than the fuel provides. (Photo by Lester Graham)
Researchers are looking at ways to use corn-based ethanol as a way to power hydrogen fuel cells. It would appear to be an environmentally friendly way to get into the hydrogen fuel economy. However, ethanol might not be as environmentally friendly as its proponents claim. Backed by the farm lobby and ag industries such as Archer Daniels Midland, ethanol has plenty of political support. But some researchers say corn-based ethanol is a boondoggle. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mary Stucky reports:
Researchers are looking at ways to use corn-based ethanol as a way to power hydrogen fuel cells.
It would appear to be an environmentally friendly way to get into the hydrogen fuel economy.
However, ethanol might not be as environmentally friendly as its proponents claim. Back by the
farm lobby and ag industry such as Archer Daniels Midland, ethanol has plenty of political
support. But some researchers say corn-based ethanol is a boondoggle. The Great Lakes Radio
Consortium’s Mary Stucky reports…
This reactor is in a laboratory at the University of Minnesota ticking as it converts ethanol into
hydrogen. Researchers here envision thousands of these inexpensive reactors in communities
across America using ethanol to create hydrogen, which would then be used in fuel cells to
Lanny Schmidt, a Professor of Chemical Engineering, directs the team that created the reactor.
“We’re not claiming our process is the cure-all for the energy crisis or anything like that. But it’s
a potential step along the way. It makes a suggestion of a possible way to go.”
Hydrogen is usually extracted from fossil fuels in dirtier and more costly refineries.
Schmidt says it’s much better to make hydrogen from ethanol.
“It right now looks like probably the most promising liquid non-toxic energy carrier we can think
of if you want renewable fuels.”
Not so fast, says David Pimentel, an agricultural scientist at Cornell University. For years,
Pimentel has warned about what he calls the cost and efficiency and boondoggle of ethanol.
Pimentel says ethanol is a losing proposition.
“It takes 30-percent more energy, including oil and natural gas, primary those two resources to
produce ethanol. That means importing both oil and natural gas because we do not have a
sufficient amount of either one.”
Pimentel says most research on ethanol fails to account for all the energy needed to make the fuel,
such as energy used to make the tractors and irrigate crops. Adding insult to injury, says
Pimentel, ethanol relies on huge government subsidies going to farmers and agri-business.
“If ethanol is such a great fuel source, why are we subsidizing it with 2-billion dollars annually?
There’s big money, as you well know, and there’s politics involved. And the big money is leaking
some of that 2-billion dollars in subsidies to the politicians and good science, sound science,
cannot compete with big money and politics.”
Pimentel also points to environmental damage of growing corn – soil erosion, water pollution
from nitrogen fertilizer and air pollution associated with facilities that make ethanol. But
Pimentel has his detractors.
David Morris runs the Institute for Local Self Reliance in Minneapolis. Morris is not a scientist,
but he commissioned a study on ethanol. He says Pimentel relies on out-of-date figures and fails
to account for the fact that ethanol production is getting more efficient.
Morris’ findings – a gallon of ethanol contains more than twice the energy needed to produce it.
As for subsidies…
“There’s no doubt that if we did not provide a subsidy for ethanol it would not be competitive
with gasoline. But what we need to understand is that we also subsidize gasoline, and if you took
the percentage of the Pentagon budget, which is spent directly on maintaining access to Middle-
Eastern oil, and impose that at the pump, it would add 25- to 50-cents a gallon. At that point,
ethanol is competitive, under the assumption that you will not need a large military budget to
protect our access to Iowa corn.”
But more efficient than making ethanol from corn might be grass, or even weeds. David Morris
says that’s because you don’t have fertilize or irrigate those kinds of plants, the way you do corn.
“So if we’re talking about ethanol as a primary fuel to truly displace gasoline, we have to talk
about a more abundant feedstock. So instead of the corn kernel, it become the corn stock, or it
becomes fast-growing grasses, or it becomes trees, or sawdust or organic garbage. And then
you’re really talking about a carbohydrate economy.”
Pimentel scoffs at that idea.
“You’ve got the grind that material up, and then to release the sugars, you’ve got to use an acid,
and the yield is not as high. In fact, it would be 60-percent more energy using wood or grass
While scientists and policy people debate whether ethanol is efficient or not, Lanny Schmidt and
his team soldier on in the lab undeterred in their efforts to use ethanol for fuel. Schmidt
understands some of Pimentels’s concerns, but he thinks scientists will find an answer, so ethanol
can be used efficiency enough to help power the new hydrogen economy.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Mary Stucky in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
A recent United Nations report indicates the earth’s population has doubled since 1960. The report says the result of that growth is that humans are altering the planet on an unprecedented scale. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham has the details:
A recent United Nations report indicates the earth’s population has doubled since 1960. The report says the result of that growth is that humans are altering the planet on an unprecedented scale. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports.
In its report, the United Nations Population Fund said that with six-point-one billion people on earth, humans are using more resources than ever before. The report indicates rising affluence and consumption along with the growing population are combining to cause extensive environmental damage. The report explains that increasing population itself does not mean increasing damage to the environment. But to be sustainable where the population is growing fastest, Asia and Africa, those regions must have better access to outside resources and technology to better manage their own natural resources, and the political will to use them responsibly. Without the resources and political will, the report indicates that growing populations in undeveloped areas tend to strip the ground clear of natural resources as well as damage the environment and induce famine and disease. For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Lester Graham.
Congress has passed a measure banning drilling for oil or natural gas in the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham has the details:
Congress has passed a measure banning drilling for oil or natural gas in the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports.
The legislation includes a two-year moratorium on new oil and gas drilling in or under the Great Lakes. US Senators Debbie Stabenow, a Democrat from Michigan and Peter Fitzgerald, a Republican from Illinois came up with the plan. They say the measure was needed in order to protect the waters of the Great Lakes from environmental damage. In Michigan, Governor John Engler denounced the measure. Engler is a long-standing supporter of drilling under the lakes for new energy sources. Susan Shafer is the governor’s press secretary.
“We’re concerned about the federal government coming in and telling us that Michigan and other Great Lakes states: ‘This is what you will do; you don’t have a choice on this.’ And, in the past there have been no federal statutes that have governed control over oil or natural gas in the bottomlands of the Great Lakes. And, so, that’s always been governed by state statute.”
Michigan was preparing to issue new drilling permits. Because of term limits, Engler leaves office at the end of next year. The candidates running for governor in Michigan all oppose new drilling permits. For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.