Some American bison are contaminated with cow genes. The genes are left over from the early days of cross-breeding. (Photo by Paul Frederickson, Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
In iconic images of the Great Plains, you always see the land dotted with bison. Those bison helped make the prairies what they were. But the bison that you see on prairie preserves today are not exactly the same as the ones that once roamed the plains. The Environment Report’s Charity Nebbe has more:
We have a handful of ranchers to thank for the fact that we have any bison today. At one point there were only about a thousand and now there are half a million. Bob Hamilton is the Director of the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve in Oklahoma. He says the ranchers who saved the bison also put them at risk.
“Part of their motivation was also to see if they could cross breed bison with domestic livestock to see if they could produce a hardier winter resistant ‘beefalo’.”
The beefalo were not hardy and the ranchers abandoned their project, but the cattle genes remain. Bob Hamilton’s herd consists of 2,700 bison. Thanks to genetic testing, Hamilton has been able to weed out all of the bison carrying the most damaging kind of cattle DNA. But, there is some genetic material he just can’t get rid of. Chances are, there will always be a little bit of beef in the buffalo.
This is an artist's concept of how the FutureGen coal-burning power plant would look. The FutureGen power plant would confine the carbon dioxide that it generates and store it deep underground. (Photo courtesy of the Department of Energy)
We’re hearing more and more these days about global warming and how human activity is believed to be changing the climate. A lot of the blame has gone to pollution from coal-burning plants that produce electricity. Now, the U-S wants to build a plant that would capture and store the pollution… if it can find the right site. The GLRC’s Julie Grant reports:
We’re hearing more and more these days about global warming and how
human activity is believed to be changing the climate. A lot of the blame
has gone to pollution from coal-burning plants that produce electricity.
Now, the U.S wants to build a plant that would capture and store the
pollution…if it can find the right site. The GLRC’s Julie Grant reports:
The U.S Department of Energy is chipping in 750-million dollars to the
build what’s called the FutureGen coal-burning power plant, and a
consortium of power companies is contributing an additional 250-
million. That’s a billion dollars of investment.
It’s exciting to Craig Stevens. He’s a spokesman with the Department of
“FutureGen could revolutionize the way we use coal in this country and
around the world.”
We get most of our electricity from power plants that burn coal and belch
out greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide. But Stevens says
FutureGen would be a cleaner coal-plant…
“And that’s important because today, we in the U.S have a 250 year
supply of coal reserves. It is our most abundant fossil fuel. These
electric plants actually burn coal to produce electricity for millions of
Americans. One of the things we want to do is to use this coal in an
environmentally sensitive manner.”
The hope is that FutureGen will capture the carbon dioxide it generates
to store it deep underground. Scientists plan to purify and liquefy the
CO2, so it’s a water-like substance. Then they want to inject it into the
earth. They plan to dig wells 9000 feet deep for CO2 storage. They also
want to use the space left behind from old coal mines, oil and gas wells.
Geologist Neeraj Gupta is with Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus.
He’s been researching what’s known as carbon sequestration since
“And that time this was just the beginning of an idea that you can take
carbon dioxide emissions from large industrial sources, you know, such
as power plants, and you can purify that, to make like a pure CO2s
stream. And, just like you produce oil and gas from the deep geologic
formations, you can take that CO2 and inject it back into the ground into
those same or similar deep geologic formations.”
Gupta says in the same way fossil fuels are trapped deep in the earth,
carbon dioxide could be trapped underground for millions of years, but
there are a lot of uncertainties.
Dr. Rattan Lal is director of the Carbon Management and Sequestration
Center at Ohio State University.
“Uncertainties are… is there going to be leakage? Either at the place
where it’s being injected or several miles away where there might be a
geological fracture in the rock strata.”
Lal says areas that have the right kind of rock layers and are not prone to
earthquakes, would be the best places to experiment with a project like
Mark Shanahan is director of Ohio’s Air Quality Development
Authority. He thinks his state might be the perfect place because it has
the right kind of geology. At the deepest levels, the rocks aren’t entirely
solid. They’re porous, like a sponge, but with microscopic holes.
Scientists expect those tiny holes to absorb the CO2…
“The second thing is that that porous geology has to be beneath another
formation that is not porous, so the non-porous formation serves as a cap
on top of your CO2. So, once you put it into the porous formation, it
can’t go up.”
So the CO2 is trapped underground… hopefully permanently. Other
states, besides Ohio, think they also have good places for the plant.
The Department of Energy is currently reviewing proposals and plans to
pick a site by late next year. The agency wants to have FutureGen up
and running by 2012.
Scientists have developed a new material that they say will remove a common pollutant from water supplies. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Jonathan Ahl reports:
Scientists have developed a new material that will remove a common pollutant
from water supplies. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Jonathan Ahl
Atrazine is a herbicide widely used in the Midwest. The chemical makes its
way into waterways and kills plants and animals. It also makes water unsafe to
drink. Scientists at the University of Illinois have found a new way to
remove Atrazine from water supplies. They say a new chemical coating
applied to carbon fibers attracts the herbicide so well that it will make
the water safe to drink. Researcher Jim Economy says the new process is
also much cheaper:
“The original activated carbon fibers that we developed thirty years ago
cost a hundred dollars a pound. These should be, as you scale up, should
be down around several dollars a pound, if not less.”
Economy says the technology still needs to be tested on a large scale, but
he says he expects it to be in wide use in the next two years.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Jonathan Ahl.