Water and the Evolution of Planetary Systems

Using data from the Herschel Space Observatory, astronomers have detected for the first time cold water vapor enveloping a dusty disk around a young star. The findings suggest that this disk, which is poised to develop into a solar system, contains great quantities of water, suggesting that water-covered planets like Earth may be common in the universe. Herschel is a European Space Agency mission with important NASA contributions.

Revolutionary Oil Skimmer Nets $1 Million X Prize

A breakthrough in oil cleanup technology allows crews to skim spilled oil off the water's surface at a much faster rate. The new device wasn't developed by Exxon, BP or any of the major oil companies — it's the work of Elastec/American Marine, based in Illinois. And the design won the company a rich award from the X Prize Foundation.

WWF calls for ban on pet tigers

WASHINGTON, DC, October 20, 2011 – The tragic situation in Ohio has prompted World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to today call for a ban on private ownership of tigers. There are more tigers in captivity in the United States (an estimated 5,000) than there are in the wild (as few as 3,200). The vast majority of captive tigers in the U.S. reside in private hands, not in accredited zoos or circuses, which are well regulated.

California approves carbon market rules

California regulators on Thursday approved final regulations for a carbon market that is one of the biggest U.S. responses to climate change. The state believes the market for greenhouse gases, which starts in 2013, will let it address global warming in a low-cost way and become the center of alternative energy industries, like solar, although some businesses fear higher energy prices. The most populous U.S. state is moving ahead with the plan years after federal regulators rejected a similar idea for the nation, partly on concerns of the effect on businesses. The California Air Resources Board voted 8-0 to adopt the market regulations, which officials said are critical to the state's goal of cutting carbon emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 -- about a 22 percent reduction from forecasted business-as-usual output. Power companies and factories will be able to trade a gradually decreasing number of permits to emit carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases under the so-called cap-and-trade plan, which counts on market forces leading companies to find the cheapest way to cut emissions.

In the News: Scientists raise estimate of humpback whale numbers

Scientists have increased their estimate of the number of humpback whales in the North Pacific Ocean, according to a report published in the journal Marine Mammal Science. The revised estimate follows analysis of data compiled in 2008 as part of the largest survey ever undertaken to assess humpback whale populations in the North Pacific.

World’s first consumer standard label for wind power launched

The technical standard for the first global consumer label for companies to buy wind power and other clean renewable energy has been launched today. The program is backed by companies including WWF, Vestas Wind Systems, the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC), the LEGO Group, Bloomberg and PricewaterhouseCoopers. Effective from today, the WindMade standard allows interested entities to apply for use of the label to communicate the share of wind power and other renewable sources in their overall power consumption demand.

Charge It Up: Installing an EV Charging Station at Home

Sunday, October 16, is National Plug In Day. Read on to find out how to charge up an electric vehicle and how to install your own EV charging station. Exciting, economical, and emission free: That’s the new world of electric vehicles! Depending on where you live, you probably are seeing more electric cars on the roads, including the Nissan LEAF, Tesla Roadster, and the Chevy Volt. Other models, such as the Ford Focus, Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid, and Mitsubishi i are coming soon.

House votes to delay air pollution rules on boilers

The House of Representatives passed a bill on Thursday to delay Environmental Protection Agency limits on pollutants from industrial boilers, its latest move to hinder air rules designed to protect public health. The vote was 275 to 142 for the legislation. All Republicans present voted for the bill as did 41 Democrats. Republicans have a majority in the House. "We're not saying, 'Let's walk away and not protect the American people,'" said Representative Ed Whitfield, a Republican from Kentucky. "We're simply saying, 'Let's hold back for just a moment, let's go back and revisit this rule.'" House Republicans and the business community have launched a campaign to delay the EPA's raft of air pollution rules on everything from mercury to greenhouse gases, saying they destroy jobs and add costs to companies struggling to recover. The extent to which Republican voters support the delay of EPA air pollution rules, however, may be faltering. A survey released on Wednesday by Democratic and Republican pollsters suggested the majority of Republican voters do not want the EPA rules stopped or delayed.

Hesperia Planum Mystery

One of the supposedly best understood and least interesting landscapes on Mars is hiding something that could rewrite the planet’s history. Or not. In fact, about all that is certain is that decades of assumptions regarding the wide, flat Hesperia Planum are not holding up very well under renewed scrutiny with higher-resolution, more recent spacecraft data. Hesperia Planum is a broad lava plain in the southern highlands of the planet Mars. The plain is notable for its moderate number of impact craters and abundant wrinkle ridges. It is also the location of the ancient volcano Tyrrhena Mons (Tyrrhena Patera). The Hesperian time period on Mars is named after Hesperia Planum. The cause of of the mystery is whatcaused the numerous rilles: water or lava.

Virgin Atlantic Airways to Use Industrial Waste as Jet Fuel

Always on the cutting edge, Sir Richard Branson, president of Virgin Atlantic, has set his company on a course towards further sustainability. Virgin Atlantic Airways has announced plans to fly commercial routes on a waste-based, synthetic gas fuel rather than typical jet fuel. The reconstituted fuel will produce half the carbon emissions. The technology making this possible was developed by LanzaTech and Swedish Biofuels. Test flights with the new fuel will commence in New Zealand within the next 18 months. The first commercial flights are expected to begin in China by 2014.