Charged Saturnian Rain

There is more interaction than one would think between interplanetary bodies. In this case a new study tracks the "rain" of charged water particles into the atmosphere of Saturn and finds there is more of it and it falls across larger areas of the planet than previously thought. The study, whose observations were funded by NASA and whose analysis was led by the University of Leicester, England, reveals that the rain influences the composition and temperature structure of parts of Saturn's upper atmosphere. The paper appears in this week's issue of the journal Nature.

EU Looking Favorably on Shale Gas Development

The EU’s chief scientific advisor has said that evidence allows the go-ahead for extracting shale gas, the energy source at the centre of a European policy tug-of-war. The EU executive launched a green paper on 27 March, setting out Europe's energy and climate aims for 2030, with Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger taking a favourable position on shale gas. "I am in favour of producing shale gas, particularly for safety reasons, and to reduce gas prices," he said. "In the United States, which is a big producer of shale gas, the price of gas is four times less than in Europe."

New Materials Promise to Dramatically Drop Photovoltaic Prices

What is the single most significant barrier to widespread use of alternative energy? Is it the right wing climate change skeptics? No. It's economics. If there is not money to be made at the same scale as in the fossil fuel industry, and if renewable, clean energy does not become cheaper than fossil fuels, alternative energy doesn't stand a chance in the free market.

Black-backed Woodpeckers love burnt out forests. They are also endangered

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that it will conduct a full status review to determine whether genetically distinct populations of black-backed woodpeckers — which thrive in forests where fires have burned — will get protection under the Endangered Species Act in two regions, California/Oregon and the Black Hills of South Dakota. Today’s decision that protection may be warranted for these birds comes in response to a scientific petition submitted by four conservation groups last May. Black-backed woodpeckers are threatened by logging that destroys their post-fire habitat. "This is the first time in the history of the Endangered Species Act that the government has initiated steps to protect a wildlife species that depends upon stands of fire-killed trees," said Dr. Chad Hanson, an ecologist and black-backed woodpecker expert. "We are pleased to see the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recognize the naturalness and ecological importance of this post-fire habitat."

Tyson Foods and Ammonia

Tyson foods is all about chickens. Well that is not quite so. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Justice announced a Clean Air Act (CAA) settlement with Tyson Foods, Inc. and several of its affiliate corporations to address threats of accidental chemical releases after anhydrous ammonia was released during incidents at facilities in Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, and Nebraska, resulting in multiple injuries, property damage, and one fatality. Ammonia, in this case is often used for refrigeration systems.

Use of GM cotton linked to rise in aphid numbers

In an unexpected trade-off, the cultivation of cotton that has been genetically engineered to reduce caterpillar damage by producing its own insecticide has been linked to higher numbers of another pest - aphids. Previous studies had linked the increase in aphids to reduced insecticide use by farmers cultivating Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) cotton.

Yum! Brands announces ‘greener’ paper policy

KCF, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell policy excludes fiber from conversion of old-growth rainforests to plantations. After a prolonged campaign by environmental activists, the world's largest fast food company has announced a new sourcing policy that will shift it toward greener packaging materials.

Europa Peroxide

Europa is the sixth closest moon of the planet Jupiter, and the smallest of its four Galilean satellites, but still one of the largest moons in the Solar System. Europa has emerged as one of the top locations in the Solar System in terms of potential habitability and the possibility of hosting extraterrestrial life. Life could exist in its under-ice ocean, perhaps subsisting in an environment similar to Earth's deep-ocean hydrothermal vents. A new paper led by a NASA researcher shows that hydrogen peroxide is abundant across much of the surface of Jupiter's moon Europa. The authors argue that if the peroxide on the surface of Europa mixes into the ocean below, it could be an important energy supply for simple forms of life, if life were to exist there. The paper was published online recently in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

EU to require efficiency increases for boilers

A below-the-radar vote in an obscure EU committee to set new efficiency standards for central heating boilers has sealed energy savings that could equal 10% of Europe's energy consumption by 2020, green groups say. After more than five years of haggling, the Ecodesign directive's regulatory committee in March voted through a text setting minimum green requirements for boilers and water heaters, which also forces them to be labelled for their energy savings potential. Stéphane Arditi, a senior policy officer for the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), told EurActiv that the ensuing emissions reductions would be "massive".

Fracking: The Solution? Or The Problem?

Fracking advocates proclaim a natural gas revolution, but are they simply perpetuating our catastrophic fossil fuel dependence?